U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyers set new conditions on Friday on an interview with the special counsel and said the chances that the President would be voluntarily questioned were growing increasingly unlikely.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, needs to prove before Mr. Trump would agree to an interview that he has evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudy Giuliani, the President’s lead lawyer in the case. His declaration was the latest sign that the President’s lawyers, who long cooperated quietly with the inquiry even as their client attacked it, have shifted to an openly combative stance.

Possibility of a subpoena

Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that Mr. Mueller was unlikely to agree to the interview demands. Mr. Mueller could subpoena Mr. Trump to answer questions if he does not agree to voluntarily sit for an interview. Mr. Giuliani left open the possibility that the President, who has said in the past that he would be eager to sit down with the special counsel, would still agree to be interviewed.

The gambit by Mr. Giuliani was the latest manoeuvre in an all-out assault by the President and his legal team in recent months to alter public opinion about the inquiry. They have come to believe that, if the Democrats win control of the House in November, the chamber will vote on whether to begin the impeachment process no matter the outcome of Mr. Mueller’s investigation. So they want to sway Americans — and by extension, lawmakers.

This stalling has all but dared Mr. Mueller to subpoena Mr. Trump to testify, potentially setting off a months-long battle in court about whether the President be compelled to answer questions under oath.

Critics see the array of delay tactics as aimed at stalling an investigative report to Congress until after November’s midterm elections.

The more time Mr. Trump and his lawyers have to influence Americans’ views of the inquiry, the better their chances to undermine its credibility and pressure lawmakers not to impeach Mr. Trump.NY TImes

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