WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller III is seeking to question President Donald Trump in the coming weeks about his decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey, according to two people familiar with his plans.
Mueller’s interest in the events that led Trump to push out Flynn and Comey indicates his investigation is scrutinizing possible efforts by the president or others to hamper the probe.
Discussions about a Trump interview come amid a broader inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a wide-ranging investigation that has led to criminal charges against four former Trump advisers.
Mueller now appears to be turning his attention to Trump and key witnesses in his inner circle, raising the pressure on the White House as the administration enters its second year.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed for several hours by special counsel investigators, according to Justice Department officials. He is the first member of Trump’s Cabinet to be questioned in the probe.
Months ago, the special counsel’s office also briefly interviewed Comey, who at the time vouched for the memos he wrote about private conversations he had with the president, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump’s attorneys have crafted some negotiating terms for the president’s interview with Mueller’s team, and they could be presented to the special counsel next week, according to the two people.
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Trump’s legal team hopes to provide the president’s testimony in a hybrid form — answering some questions in a face-to-face interview and others in writing.
A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. Two attorneys for Trump also declined comment.
Sitting presidents have been interviewed by prosecutors before, though courts have urged government investigators to seek interviews only when they cannot get relevant information another way.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury via a video link after being subpoenaed by independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Within the past two weeks, the special counsel’s office has indicated to the White House that the central subjects investigators wish to discuss with the president are the departures of Flynn and Comey and the events surrounding their firings.
Mueller has also expressed interest in Trump’s efforts to remove Sessions as attorney general or pressure him into quitting, according to a person familiar with the probe.
Flynn resigned last February after the Washington Post reported he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Late last year, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak.
Trump then tweeted that “he had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Previously, the White House had cited only the false statements to Pence.
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Trump fired Comey in May, several days after the then-FBI director told Congress he could not comment on whether there was evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. At the time, Comey was overseeing the Russia probe.
Behind the scenes, Trump has told his lawyers he is not worried about being interviewed because he has done nothing wrong, according to people familiar with his views. His attorneys also support a sit-down as long as there are parameters and topics.
However, some of Trump’s close advisers fear an interview with Mueller could put the president in legal risk.
I find it to be a death wish,” said Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser. ”Why would you walk into a perjury trap?”