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

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE fought the release of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyUnder Trump, our democracy is for sale Sarah Sanders to leave White House Sarah Sanders to leave White House MORE's memos out of fear President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants 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 PriebusOvernight Defense: Inside the 3B House defense policy bill | Senators take new tack to challenge Saudi arms sales | Raytheon, United Technologies to merge Overnight Defense: Inside the 3B House defense policy bill | Senators take new tack to challenge Saudi arms sales | Raytheon, United Technologies to merge Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus officially joins Navy MORE, then-acting Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesTrump: 'Impossible for me to know' extent of Flynn investigation Mueller didn't want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories Sally Yates: Trump would be indicted on obstruction of justice if he were not president MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerTrump taps former ICE director to return as 'border czar' Trump taps former ICE director to return as 'border czar' Republicans warn Cuccinelli won't get confirmed by GOP Senate 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.