The future of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia is still largely unclear.
In an interview with This Week‘s George Stephanopoulos, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said that the president’s lawyers want to avoid a direct interview between their client and Mueller, but according to Sekulow, Trump himself will make the final call.
While the president’s legal team is “still having ongoing discussions about whether an interview should take place,” according to the Washington Examiner, “the inclination is not [talk to Mueller] at this point,” Sekulow said.
Future of Mueller investigation unclear
Having long expressed openness to a one-on-one with Mueller, it is unclear whether the president will take his lawyers’ advice.
Trump’s attorneys and legal experts like Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano have warned that a sit-down interview with Mueller could be a “perjury trap.”
“They already know the answers to many of [their] questions, they can document the answers, and they want to see if the president will tell the truth,” Napolitano said in May. “Remember, lying, even a white lie — a so-called white lie — in this environment, can trigger an indictment.”
Some have argued that if Trump chooses not to speak directly with Mueller, which he could do with his lawyers present, the president could instead face questions from a grand jury, which he must answer on his own and under oath.
But if Mueller tries to force Trump to testify with a subpoena, Sekulow said the president’s lawyers will bring the case to the Supreme Court.
“A subpoena for live testimony has never been tested in court as to the president of the United States,” Sekulow said. But, he added, “with the amount of cooperation that has gone forward… it’s hard for us to see why they need the president’s testimony.”
Obstruction questions divide negotiations
Sekulow’s statements come as negotiations are reportedly winding down between Mueller’s team and Trump’s lawyers, led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. The president’s team has discussed for months whether — and under what conditions — Trump should personally meet with Mueller.
One point of contention during these negotiations has been whether Mueller could ask questions during such an interview regarding the president allegedly obstructing justice with his tweets, particularly those aboutAttorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s legal team said Monday that they would object to any interview involving questions about obstruction in a letter to Mueller’s team, Guiliani seemed to reverse course on Tuesday, saying that he would leave some “wiggle room” for the questions.
Still, Sekulow told Stephanopoulos that it’s “absurd” to claim that Trump obstructed justice in a tweet last week calling for Sessions to bring Mueller’s “Witch Hunt” to an end. The president wrote:
“Obstruction of justice by tweet is absurd,” Sekulow told Stephanopoulos. “The president has the First Amendment right to put his opinion out there.”
Giuliani reportedly plans to respond to Mueller’s team with Trump’s conditions for an interview on Wednesday — but President Trump doesn’t need to sit down with Mueller to prove anything. He should listen to his lawyers’ advice and steer clear. It’s a trap.