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

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE fought the release of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces Sarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE's memos out of fear President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? 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 PriebusTrump blasts Scaramucci as 'incapable' Trump taps Sean Spicer to join Naval Academy board of visitors Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender MORE, then-acting Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: Moral fiber of US being 'shredded by unapologetic racism' Trump: 'Impossible for me to know' extent of Flynn investigation Mueller didn't want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories MORE, adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerThe White House and schools have this in common: Asbestos The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign 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.