President Donald Trump's lawyers are working to limit the scope of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation by scrutinizing the special counsel's conflicts and investigating the president's pardoning authority, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
"The fact is that the president is concerned about conflicts that exist within the special counsel's office and any changes in the scope of the investigation," Jay Sekulow, one of the president's private lawyers, told the Post in an interview. "The scope is going to have to stay within his mandate.
"If there's drifting, we're going to object."
Sekulow cited reports by Bloomberg News that Mueller planned to analyze some of the president's business dealings.
These include a 2008 real estate deal in which a Russian oligarch paid Trump $95 million for a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.
"They're talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago," Sekulow told the Post. "In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation."
In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump warned Mueller would be stepping outside of his boundaries by probing his personal finances or other matters unrelated to Russia.
"I would say, yes," the president said, declining to say what he would do if the red line were crossed. "I think that's a violation.
"Look, this is about Russia."
According to the Post, Trump has sought legal advice from his lawyers about his authority to pardon aides, family members, and even himself in connection with the probe.
In addition, "Trump's lawyers have been discussing the president's pardoning powers among themselves," the Post reported.
The Post cited "people familiar with the effort."
President Trump's legal team declined to comment, but one adviser said he was simply seeking to understand the scope of his pardoning authority as well as of Mueller's investigation.
"This is not in the context of, 'I can't wait to pardon myself,'" the adviser told the Post.
The president is also concerned Mueller's team could gain access to his tax returns, which Trump has yet to release because he said he remains under IRS audit.
"If you're looking at Russian collusion, the president's tax returns would be outside that investigation," another close Trump adviser told the Post.
President Trump has long slammed the FBI's Moscow probe as a "witch hunt" – and Mueller was given broad powers to investigate alleged ties to the Trump campaign.
In addition, the inquiry can also examine "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation" and any possible crimes relating to the probe, including perjury or obstruction of justice, the Post reported.
Mueller was named special counsel in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller had also headed the FBI.
"This is Ken Starr times 1,000," one lawyer on the case told the Post, referring to the independent counsel whose investigation eventually brought House impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton.
"Of course, it's going to go into his finances."
Mueller's probe has already expanded to include whether Trump obstructed justice with Comey, along with the business activities of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Trump's lawyers, according to the Post, could possibly challenge whether any probe of the president's finances before the campaign could be cited as arising "directly" from the Moscow investigation.
Under Justice Department rules for a special counsel, a conflict of interest could be cited as grounds for removal, the Post reported.
Trump's lawyers have already cited several conflicts involving Mueller's team, including the number of attorneys who have donated to Hillary Clinton's campaign last year.
One member of Mueller's team, Jeannie Rhee, has represented the Clinton Foundation.
In addition, two White House advisers told the Post another potential conflict was Mueller's dispute with the Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia over membership fees when he resigned in 2011.
A Mueller spokesman for Mueller said no dispute arose when he left the club.
He was at the FBI at the time, according to the report.
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