President Donald Trump's supplicatory performance with the Russian president at a press conference in Helsinki on Monday did nothing to help his argument that he's not in Vladimir Putin's pocket — and a new report from CNN found that his legal team fears it may have done him real damage on the legal front.
According to the report, the president's team has felt confident about his standing in recent weeks against special counsel Robert Mueller as public support for the Russia investigation has dropped. But after Trump's widely panned meeting with Putin, he's likely on shakier ground with the former FBI director.
"[One] source with knowledge of legal team thinking says it's now legitimate to fear that Trump's erratic behavior at the Helsinki summit, coupled with last week's indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers, could be an inflection point in the whole process — one that could potentially make Trump less sympathetic and conceivably embolden Mueller," reporter Dana Bash and Gloria Borger wrote.
The president's team continues its negotiations about whether Trump will sit for an interview, but it's not clear the two sides have really made any progress. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said the president is only willing to meet if the scope of the questioning is narrowed — and he has repeatedly expressed concern that Trump will commit perjury.
Mueller may eventually decide to subpoena president, which could trigger a major legal battle over constitutional matters.
But the special counsel hasn't pulled the trigger yet.
"One question being raised inside Trump's team is whether Mueller is now slow-walking the interview talks as he rolls out indictments, as he did last week against a dozen Russian nationals," according to CNN. "The thought is that maybe Mueller wants to show they have more of an established record before moving in any way on Trump."
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