By Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyers spent at least 10 hours reviewing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election before it was made public, two of the lawyers told Reuters on Friday.
Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow and two other Trump lawyers went to the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday and Wednesday for an early look at the 448-page report into whether Trump’s team colluded with Russia and whether Trump obstructed the investigation, which was released to the public on Thursday.
Attorney General William Barr, who has drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers over his handling of the Mueller probe, said on Thursday that both White House counsel and Trump’s personal lawyers had been allowed to review the redacted report.
Barr gave no details about how much access they were given but Sekulow and Giuliani said they reviewed copies of the report from about 4 p.m. until at least 9 p.m. on Tuesday and from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, taking notes on legal pads.
The lawyers said they gave up their cellphones and other electronic devices before being led into a Justice Department conference room in a restricted area known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), designed to ensure secret information stays secure.
“We were doing a lot of reading, not talking,” Sekulow told Reuters, referring to himself, Giuliani, and Jane and Marty Raskin.
“I had at least 30 pages of notes,” said Giuliani.
Sekulow pushed back against Democrats’ complaints that Barr had tried to help Trump by giving his lawyers an early look at the report.
“Our client was the subject of an inquiry,” Sekulow said, explaining that the team of lawyers sent a note to the Justice Department last week asking to see the report. “We believed it was an appropriate request to make.”
The disclosure followed news reports this week that Justice Department officials discussed Mueller’s conclusions with White House lawyers before the release.
Giuliani said the preview reassured them that the report did not contain any bombshells.
“It gave us some confidence the people who hate him will hate him, the people who love him will love him, and the people in between were not going to be persuaded,” he said.
After the first session, the lawyers went back to Sekulow’s Capitol Hill offices, ordered in Chinese food and created an outline of their own about the most important details in the report, they said.
On Wednesday night, they went out for Mexican food. And on Thursday night, after the report’s release, they celebrated at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Although Mueller’s team described in detail the extensive contact Trump’s team had with Russia during the election campaign and how Trump tried to impede the investigation, it stopped short of concluding he had committed a crime or that his aides had conspired with Moscow.
The team of personal lawyers was happy with the result. “No collusion and no obstruction,” Sekulow said, using a phrase often repeated by Trump.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Rigby)