So when will President Trump get his day to speak to Robert Mueller about the 2016 election and any Russian interference, or about the possibility that Trump attempted to obstruct, when he fired FBI Director James Comey?
That’s what his lawyers are apparently discussing, now, according to White House officials.
According to a Politico report, Trump’s attorneys are beginning to lean towards the notion of having Trump sit with Mueller, in order to speed up the ongoing Russia probe.
In fact, they’re even considering making the request personally, if Mueller hasn’t moved to get the president scheduled by Thanksgiving.
Trump has said he’s willing to sit and be interviewed, which could be a good thing, or it could be a nightmare for his legal team, depending on how Trump plays it.
If he goes in and plays crazy, he could stumble into a lot of tricky territory, and end up hurting, rather than helping himself.
With Trump, that’s always a possibility, as the man seems to have no self-control.
The question is: Will Trump actually agree to it?
“You can say, ‘I’m busy. I’m fighting World War III. I can’t talk to you right now.’ But you can’t just say because I’m president of the United States you have to wait until I’m out of office,” said Solomon Wisenberg, a deputy to Starr who participated in the grand jury questioning of Clinton in 1998. “If they want his testimony, he’s going to have to testify.”
Wisenberg said that, should Trump resist meeting with Mueller, he would trigger a Constitutional clash that the prosecutor is likely to win, based on Supreme Court rulings. Short of that, the only way Trump could avoid answering questions would be to assert executive or attorney-client privilege, or to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against possible self-incrimination.
Indeed, the attitude of Trump’s lawyers, compared to Trump’s repeated attacks on the validity of the investigation are in stark contrast.
Theirs is the sane and rational approach, and it would serve Trump well to listen to them, if he can conduct himself like an adult in any interviews with Mueller or his team.
As a last resort, Trump could invoke the Fifth Amendment—but only at the risk of political fallout. Trump criticized his Democratic campaign rival Hillary Clinton after some of her former staffers did just that rather than testify in a Congressional probe into her use of a private email server. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth?” Trump asked at an Iowa rally in September 2016.
Trump has pleaded the Fifth before, however, during his 1990 divorce proceedings with his first wife, Ivana Trump.
Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, said the risks for Trump are enormous, and said Trump’s routine distortion of facts would make speaking to Mueller under oath highly dangerous. “Given his proclivity toward confabulation, I have no doubt his lawyers would counsel strongly against him testifying,” he said.
But they aren’t, at least, not yet.
They can request to know what topics Mueller would want to discuss, in order to better prepare their client, and they likely will, should Mueller decide to call the president to testify.
And it doesn’t end there. House and Senate investigators may also call on the president to be interviewed, as they are part of the ongoing probe, as well.
It will be interesting to see if Trump is called before the year is out. Even more interesting will be the tweets that follow any interviews.