A lawyer for Donald Trump has stressed the president’s legal team would contest any effort to force him to testify before a grand jury during the special counsel’s Russia probe.
But Rudy Giuliani downplayed the idea that Mr Trump could pardon himself.
In a series of television interviews, Mr Giuliani emphasised one of the main arguments in a newly unveiled letter sent by Mr Trump’s lawyers to special counsel Robert Mueller back in January – that a president cannot be given a grand jury subpoena as part of the investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 election.
But he distanced himself from one of their bolder arguments in the letter – that a president could not have committed obstruction of justice because he has authority to “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon”.
“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Mr Giuliani told NBC’s Meet the Press. “And he has no need to do it, he’s done nothing wrong.”
The former New York City mayor, who was not on the legal team when the letter was written, added that Mr Trump “probably does” have the power to pardon himself, an assertion challenged by legal scholars, but says the president’s legal team has not discussed that option, which many observers believe could plunge the nation into a constitutional crisis.
“I think the political ramifications would be tough,” Mr Giuliani said. “Pardoning other people is one thing, pardoning yourself is tough.”
Mr Trump has issued two unrelated pardons in recent days and discussed others, a move that has been interpreted as a possible signal to allies ensnared in the Russia probe.
The letter is dated January 29 and addressed to Mr Mueller from John Dowd, a Trump lawyer who has since resigned from the legal team.
Mr Mueller has requested an interview with the president to determine whether he had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into his associates’ possible links to Russia’s election interference.
Mr Giuliani said on Sunday that a decision about an interview would not be made until after Mr Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore, and he cast doubt that it would occur at all.
“I mean, we’re leaning toward not,” Mr Giuliani told ABC. “But look, if they can convince us that it will be brief, it would be to the point, there were five or six points they have to clarify, and with that, we can get this — this long nightmare for the — for the American public over.”
Mr Trump’s legal team has long pushed the special counsel to narrow the scope of its interview.
Mr Giuliani also suggested that Mr Trump’s lawyers had been incorrect when they denied that the president was involved with the letter that offered an explanation for Donald Trump Jr’s 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians who offered damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“This is the reason you don’t let the president testify,” Mr Giuliani told ABC. “Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.”
If Mr Trump does not consent to an interview, Mr Mueller will have to decide whether to go forward with a historic grand jury subpoena. His team raised the possibility in March of subpoenaing the president, but it is not clear if it is still under active consideration.