President Trump’s legal team considered Camp David as a possible location for a meeting between the president and Special Counsel Robert Mueller as early as January, Fox News has learned.
A source with knowledge of the discussions told Fox News that during internal deliberations early this year, Trump’s lawyers discussed Camp David – the Maryland retreat for presidents – as a possible interview location. They did not discuss that location with Mueller.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the details of the deal that came close, but was never made, amid an internal debate on the president’s legal team about the wisdom of Trump sitting for a Mueller interview.
According to a source, together with Mueller, Trump’s attorneys penciled in Jan. 27 as a possible date for an interview. Mueller said he would likely need about a half a day, the person said.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Trump’s attorneys, at the time, wanted to know what topics Mueller was looking to cover in a meeting and why he thought it necessary to interview the president at all. At the time, then-Trump lawyer John Dowd was putting together a legal argument that Mueller had a high bar to clear if he wanted to talk to Trump face-to-face.
Mueller told Trump’s attorneys that he wanted the session on the record with a court reporter and under oath, the source said.
Trump’s attorneys felt that Mueller hadn’t made a strong enough case during the meeting to justify an interview with the president – so they sent him a lengthy letter listing arguments against doing an interview. The letter, about 20 pages long, was put together by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and his assistants.
The intention was to “push back against Mueller – make him work and prove that he needed to talk to the president,” the source said.
The legal team also “wanted to know what was on Mueller’s mind” after all the material they and the White House provided to the special counsel. The source says Trump was “very pleased” with the letter.
The legal team’s eventual advice to the president was that “no interview was warranted or justified,” but they “didn’t slam the door” on the idea.
In their next meeting, Mueller told the president’s legal team that Trump was not a “target” of the investigation, the source said. Trump’s attorneys kept pushing Mueller for more specifics on what he wanted to ask, and eventually said they would need the list of questions. Mueller provided those in early April.
Negotiations over a possible interview are ongoing to this day.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.