By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MAGGIE HABERMAN
© 2018 New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — The special counsel hopes to finish by Sept. 1 the investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, according to the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in November’s midterm elections.
Wrapping up the obstruction case would not signal the end of Mueller’s work. That is one piece of his broader inquiry, a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump associates coordinated with it. Counterintelligence investigations are used to gather information quietly about the activities of foreign powers and their agents and can result in criminal charges.
Giuliani sought to frame the outcome of the obstruction investigation as pitting the credibility of one man against another: Trump vs. James Comey, the former FBI director, whom the president asked to end the investigation into his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The president’s request is one of the main episodes Mueller is examining to determine whether Trump had criminal intent to obstruct the Russia investigation.
“We want the concentration of this to be on Comey versus the president’s credibility, and I think we win that and people get that,” Giuliani said, adding that he also hoped that the Justice Department would open a criminal investigation into Comey for perjury and his role in the disclosures to The New York Times last year about his encounters with the president that prompted Mueller’s appointment.
Giuliani said Comey had damaged his credibility during his recent book tour and was an unreliable witness. Trump’s lawyers have long said that Comey’s accounts of their interactions, described in contemporaneous memos and congressional testimony, cannot be trusted. Comey declined to comment.