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Trump suggests he may give written testimony in House probe

President Donald Trump pauses during an event on

President Donald Trump pauses during an event on health care prices in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday said he will “strongly consider” an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit written testimony in the impeachment inquiry. His claim came just before House Democrats disclosed in federal court that they are investigating whether the president lied in his written testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump, in a series of morning tweets, continued to rail against the inquiry as a second week of public hearings were set to begin on Tuesday. Despite directing White House aides for months to not comply with congressional subpoenas, Trump said he was weighing an offer made by Pelosi on Sunday during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” to testify before lawmakers and “speak all the truth that he wants.”

Trump tweeted: “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

The president previously testified in writing as part of Mueller’s two-year probe into Russian election interference, but refused to sit for an in-person interview. Trump’s personal legal team, including Rudy Giuliani, negotiated a deal at the time to have Mueller’s team submit a list of questions for Trump to answer.

Mueller, in his final report, noted “the inadequacy of the written format,” saying it did not allow investigators the opportunity to pose follow-up questions.

On Monday, a lawyer for House Democrats arguing in federal court for the release of grand jury evidence in the Mueller probe, said lawmakers needed access to the sealed evidence to determine if the president had lied in his answers to Mueller.

General Counsel Douglas Letter, speaking to a panel of federal appellate court judges, noted that two of Trump’s former associates — former attorney Michael Cohen and political adviser Roger Stone — were indicted on charges of lying to Congress “about things that go directly to the Mueller report.” Cohen pleaded guilty to lying, while Stone was convicted last week of seven counts of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

During Stone’s trial, testimony from former Trump 2016 campaign aides appeared to contradict Trump’s written assertion to Mueller that he was unaware of efforts by the website WikiLeaks to post hacked emails belonging to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” Letter asked. “The House is trying to determine whether the current president should remain in office. This is unbelievably serious and it’s happening right now, very fast.”

Last month a lower court judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over the grand jury evidence, but the Trump administration appealed, arguing that grand jury information is federally protected. Regardless of the appellate court’s decision, the case is likely to be appealed, setting it up to go before the Supreme Court.

The president’s morning tweets deriding the impeachment inquiry came as eight witnesses are set to testify in open hearings before the House Intelligence Committee this week — including Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union whose phone calls with Trump regarding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s willingness to open a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden have come under scrutiny. A longtime State Department aide testified on Friday that he overheard Trump inquiring about “the investigations” during a July 26 call with Sondland.

Trump has said his communications with Zelensky were “perfect,” but House Democratic leaders have accused the president of abusing his office to damage former Vice President Joe Biden, his potential challenger in the 2020 presidential race.

— With The Associated Press

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