Russia special counsel Robert Mueller told President Donald Trump's attorneys last month he does not consider the president a criminal target of his investigation at this point, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The Post cited "three people familiar with the discussions" and disclosed Mueller's description occurred in "private negotiations" over a possible interview with Trump.
"Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation, but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges," the Post explained.
Mueller's team also told Trump's lawyers he was preparing a report about the president's actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice, two people with knowledge of the conversations told the Post.
Trump's chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, declined to comment — and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred questions to White House attorney Ty Cobb.
"Thank you, but I don't discuss communications with the president or with the Office of Special Counsel," Cobb told the Post.
Peter Carr, a Mueller spokesman, also declined to comment.
According to the report, Mueller stressed the need to interview President Trump in order to ascertain any deliberate intent to impede the Russia probe and to complete this part of his investigation.
Mueller's assurance regarding Trump's risk of criminal jeopardy is low, however, has led some of the president's advisers to note he could easily become an indictment target or that the prosecutor might be trying to bait Trump for an interview that could put him in greater legal peril.
President Trump has repeatedly slammed the Russia probe as a "witch hunt" and has said his campaign did not collude with the Kremlin.
Mueller's investigators, the Post disclosed, told Trump's lawyers they might report their findings at various stages of their investigation.
One written report would focus on obstruction, with the second concerning Russian interference.
Mueller must disclose his findings to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
"They've said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public's questions — and they need the president's interview as the last step," one person familiar with the discussions told the Post.
Legal experts cautioned Trump still might not be in the clear.
"If I were the president, I would be very reluctant to think I'm off the hook," Keith Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University, told the Post.
"My sense of it is the president — given that information — ought to have pretty fair warning anything he's saying in the deposition would be legally consequential," he added.
"Depending on what he says, it could wind up changing how the special counsel is thinking about him."
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