Donald Trump’s lawyer appeared to backtrack on the US President’s claim that he would be willing to be interviewed “under oath” by Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Ty Cobb said Mr Trump “spoke hurriedly” and only intended to say that he would be willing to meet with special counsel.
The US leader had earlier appeared to end months of speculation about whether he would submit to questioning from Mr Mueller as part of the probe that he has repeatedly called a “witch hunt”.
“I’m looking forward to it, actually,” he told reporters at the White House. “I would do it under oath.”
He added that he would like “to do it as soon as possible”.
Mr Cobb, the White House lawyer leading the response to the investigation, later insisted that Mr Trump had been speaking “hurriedly” during an impromptu exchange before departing for the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos.
“He’s ready to meet with them, but he’ll be guided by the advice of his personal counsel,” Mr Cobb told The New York Times.
The President’s show of eagerness to speak to the special counsel could put his lawyers in a difficult position, legal analyst Michael Zeldin told CNN.
“Mueller should say to Ty Cobb and [Mr Trump’s personal lawyer] John Dowd, ‘Good, your client is all ready to go, we are all ready to go, let’s do it in the Map Room on Tuesday with a court reporter and we will settle this thing,’” he said.
Mr Zeldin, who once worked for Mr Mueller at the Justice Department, added: “I think that the unscripted appearance of the President talking about this has to make his lawyers a bit nuts because it’s very hard to walk this back.”
Earlier this week it emerged that senior US intelligence officers including CIA director Mike Pompeo had been questioned by the special counsel’s team about whether Mr Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.
The Kremlin has denied conclusions drawn by US intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the election campaign using hacking and propaganda to try to tilt the race in the Republican’s favour.