On Sunday, The New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller “hopes to finish by Sept. 1 the investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry,” citing comments made to the publication by Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani later clarified his comments saying Mueller would finish the obstruction portion of his inquiry by September 1 if Trump agreed to be interviewed, something he appears unlikely to do.
That report would still represent a significant development if true, as it would indicate a major piece of Mueller’s investigation is drawing to a close. There’s just one problem, however — Giuliani appears to have made it up.
On the heels of The Times’ report, Reuters reported that “a source familiar with the probe” told them that Giuliani’s comments were a fabrication.
A source familiar with the probe called the Sept. 1 deadline “entirely made-up” and “another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work.”
“He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president’s attorneys cooks up,” said the source, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Giuliani’s comments to The Times weren’t the first time he’s pretended to be a spokesperson to Mueller, only to be later exposed for spreading dubious information.
Last Thursday, CNN, citing an interview with Giuliani that took place after Giuliani met with Mueller, reported that “Mueller’s team has informed President Donald Trump’s attorneys that they have concluded that they cannot indict a sitting president.”
That too would be significant, as the question of whether a president can be indicted in still a subject of vigorous debate among experts. But subsequent interviews revealed that Giuliani was confused about what, if anything, Mueller told him.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Giuliani acknowledged that Mueller never told him Trump wouldn’t be indicted. Instead, he said his comments to CNN were based on a call one of Mueller’s investigators had after their meeting with another of Trump’s attorneys, Jaw Sekulow.
Giuliani seemed uncertain of what, exactly, was communicated in that phone call.
“He didn’t say that,” Giuliani said, asked if Mueller explicitly said he wouldn’t charge the president. “One of his — I have to check with Jay, he’s in Israel right now. One of his top people told him that.”
In response to a follow-up question, Giuliani steered the conversation to “Justice Department policy,” but didn’t detail Mueller’s position. That’s likely because Mueller has not revealed his position to Giuliani.