Donald Trump’s lawyers have reportedly advised him against doing a wide-ranging interview with Robert Mueller, the man leading the Russia investigation.
They fear the US president could be charged with lying to investigators, according to a New York Times report, which noted his tendency to contradict himself in the past.
Other high profile supporters of Mr Trump such as former presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie have also urged him to reject any request.
The advice appears at odds with Mr Trump’s own instinct to agree to be interviewed, something he publicly said he would do last month.
A refusal to be interviewed could create months of legal wrangling and push back the end date for the Russian investigation.
Mr Mueller, the special counsel, is said to be looking into as many as five different areas of Russian election meddling, one of which is obstruction of justice.
Stephen Bannon, Mr Trump’s former campaign chief and White House adviser, is said to be prepared to talk to Mr Mueller but has been less forthcoming with Congress.
Fox News reported that Mr Bannon will decline to appear before the House intelligence committee, which is looking into Russia’s role in the election, despite a subpoena being issued.
Mr Mueller, who was tasked with leading the Russian investigation after Mr Trump fired James Comey as FBI director, is seeking an interview with the president.
Last month, Mr Trump said he was “looking forward” to the interview and was willing to appear under oath, before adding “subject to my lawyers, and all of that”.
The New York Times reported that John Dowd, a lawyer hired to represent Mr Trump in the investigation, and Jay Sekulow, his deputy, want the president to “rebuff” any interview request, along with other White House aides.
Mr Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, said last week: “I don’t think the president of the United States, unless there are credible allegations — which I don’t believe there are — should be sitting across from a special counsel.”
Mr Gingrich, a former House of Representatives speaker, has said: “The idea of putting Trump in a room with five or six hardened, very clever lawyers, all of whom are trying to trick him and trap him, would be a very, very bad idea.”
Meanwhile Mr Trump has come under political pressure after the US stock market, which he has repeatedly cited as proof for the success of his presidency, dropped sharply in recent days.
The White House attempted to put focus on the wider economy rather than the stock market as critics said Mr Trump would have to “own the fall” in the stock market as he had done the rise.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “The president’s focus is on our long-term economic fundamentals, which remain exceptionally strong, with strengthening U.S. economic growth, historically low unemployment and increasing wages for American workers.
“The president’s tax cuts and regulatory reforms will further enhance the U.S. economy and continue to increase prosperity for the American people.”
Good time to recall that in the previous administration, we NEVER boasted about the stock market -- even though the Dow more than doubled on Obama's watch -- because we knew two things: 1) the stock market is not the economy; and 2) if you claim the rise, you own the fall.— Jay Carney (@JayCarney) February 5, 2018