Mueller didn't want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE fought the release of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden sister has book deal, set to publish in April Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom MORE's memos out of fear President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE and other witnesses in the Russia investigation would use them to alter their stories, according to a court transcript obtained by CNN.

Mueller's prosecutors argued in January 2018 that the memos, which were eventually made public in April of that year, could present a conflict for their investigation if released. At the time, Mueller's team was negotiating with Trump's legal team over a potential interview.

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"Special Counsel is attempting to determine the facts that transpired in and surrounding those meetings," one of Mueller's prosecutors, Michael Dreeben, said at the time, according to CNN.

"In any investigation of this kind, the recollections of one witness, if disclosed to another potential witness, have the potential to influencing, advertently or inadvertently, the recollections of that witness," he added.

Dreeben told the court that Comey’s memos of his interactions with Trump were crucial in the special counsel’s probe and included much more detail than Comey’s public statements. He added that Mueller’s office was concerned that Trump had acted to obstruct the probe.

"In this instance, a person whose conduct is within the scope of the investigation is the President of the United States," Dreeben said in court.

Mueller ultimately interviewed several Trump associates, including then-chief of staff Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Biden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet MORE, then-acting Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: I never thought that I'd be saying, 'Yeah, go Liz Cheney' ABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerTrump to Pence on Jan. 6: 'You don't have the courage' 'Just say we won,' Giuliani told Trump aides on election night: book Stephen Miller contends no president dealt better hand than Biden MORE and others in the administration. However, the president never agreed to meet with Mueller for a sit-down interview and declined to submit written answers to questions about potentially obstructive acts.

CNN and other media outlets last year fought for access to Comey’s memos under a Freedom of Information Act request. A federal judge ordered the Justice Department on Tuesday to provide a transcript of the court hearing with Mueller’s prosecutors to CNN as part of the suit.

Congress received redacted versions of Comey’s memos in April that were later made public. Mueller wrote in his report that he accumulated “substantial evidence” to support Comey’s notes, though he declined to make a prosecutorial judgement regarding obstruction of justice.