Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has raised the likelihood with President Trump’s legal team that his office will seek an interview with the president, triggering a discussion among his attorneys about how to avoid a sit-down encounter or set limits on such a session, according to two people familiar with the talks.
Mueller brought up the issue of interviewing Trump during a late December meeting with the president’s lawyers, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Mueller deputy James Quarles, who oversees the White House portion of the special counsel investigation, also attended.
The special counsel’s team could interview Trump very soon on some limited portion of questions — possibly within the next several weeks, according to a person close to the president who was granted anonymity to describe internal conversations.
“This is moving faster than anyone really realizes,” the person said, who said Trump is comfortable participating in an interview and believes it would put to rest questions about whether his campaign coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election.
However, the president’s attorneys are reluctant to allow him to sit down for open-ended, face-to-face questioning without clear parameters, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Since the December meeting, they have discussed whether the president could provide written answers to some portion of the questions from Mueller’s investigators, as then-President Ronald Reagan did during the Iran-contra investigation. They have also discussed the obligation of Mueller’s team to demonstrate they could not obtain the information they are seeking without interviewing the President.
Dowd and Sekulow declined to comment.
What are Trump’s lawyers going to be thinking about? Perjury trap.
Actually — technically — Trump will not be talking to the FBI under oath, so it won’t be perjury. But it is still a crime to lie to federal investigators and Trump’s lawyers will no doubt want to prevent that from happening. Will they try to work that out in a deal, and how will they actually do that? (“Hey, our client might lie, so we want immunization for that”).
Politically, it is also dicey. Trump refusing to be interviewed makes him LOOK bad, although he could no doubt say that he doesn’t trust the FBI (you know, that “Deep State” bullshit).
But one thing is for sure: Mueller would not be talking to Trump unless he had all his ducks in a row. Which means we’re approaching the end of this thing. Maybe 4-5 more months.