The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will accept written answers from President Trump on questions about whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference, Mr. Mueller’s office told Mr. Trump’s lawyers in a letter, two people briefed on it said on Tuesday.
But on another significant aspect of the investigation — whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry itself — Mr. Mueller and his investigators understood that issues of executive privilege could complicate their pursuit of a presidential interview and did not ask for written responses on that matter, according to the letter, which was sent on Friday.
Mr. Mueller did not say that he was giving up on an interview altogether, including on questions of obstruction of justice. But the tone of the letter and the fact that the special counsel did not ask for written responses on obstruction prompted some Trump allies to conclude that if an interview takes place, its scope will be more limited than Mr. Trump’s legal team initially believed, the people said.
The letter was the latest in lengthy negotiations that the two sides have engaged in about whether Mr. Trump will be formally interviewed in the investigation. “We continue to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the office of the special counsel,” Mr. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said, adding that it was the legal team’s policy to not discuss its communications with the special counsel’s office. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have tried to put off a formal interview, saying repeatedly that to determine whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference and whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry, Mr. Mueller can find the answers in the interviews that his investigators have conducted with witnesses, including senior White House aides and administration officials, and more than 1.4 million documents turned over by the White House.
But they have dangled written answers as a possibility, and Mr. Mueller’s team appears receptive to it as an interim measure.
[This article will be updated.]