Even so, before Wednesday, Mr. Trump had never explicitly told Mr. Sessions publicly that he should move to end the inquiry. In a telephone interview on Wednesday after the president’s tweet, Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow and Rudolph W. Giuliani, insisted that the president still had not given such an order, and that he did not intend to.
“It’s not a call to action,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that it was a sentiment that Mr. Trump and his lawyers had previously expressed publicly and one protected by the president’s constitutional right to free speech.
“He doesn’t feel that he has to intervene in the process, nor is he intervening,” Mr. Sekulow said.
Mr. Trump wanted the legal process to play out, his lawyers said. “He’s expressing his opinion, but he’s not talking of his special powers he has” as president, Mr. Giuliani said.
Mr. Mueller, appointed last year to oversee the government’s Russia investigation, is already looking into some of the president’s previous Twitter posts and public statements to determine whether they reflect an intent and pattern of conduct meant to obstruct his inquiry. But Mr. Guiliani dismissed the obstruction of justice concerns, calling them a “bizarre and novel theory of obstruction by tweet,” adding that it was “idiotic.”
Still, it was clear that the president’s tweet had alarmed his legal team, which swung into action almost immediately to clarify and spin it in a more favorable light, proactively calling reporters from The New York Times and other news publications to explain.
Later, Mr. Giuliani said that the fact that Mr. Trump had made the statement on Twitter, “a medium that he uses for opinions,” was proof that it should not be seen as an order.
“One of the good things about using that is he’s established a clear sort of practice now that he expresses his opinions on Twitter,” Mr. Giuliani told reporters.