The Trump team took the position that “if you’re going to try a novel theory on obstruction, you shouldn’t try it on the president,” the sources said.

Trump’s lawyers are as mystified as are many observers about why Mueller didn’t make a decision about obstruction, the sources said. They theorize that there may have been disagreements within his team, or disagreements between him and others at the Justice Department. He could have made a recommendation he knew would be overruled, but that would have been reported to Congress.

Trump’s lawyers never wanted him to sit down with the special counsel, but they also feared litigating and losing, the sources say, because they didn’t believe refusing to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds was an option for the president.

But as 2019 dawned, “There did come a point. A feeling in the air. They were getting ready to be done with all of this,” one source said of Mueller’s team.