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Donald Trump refuses to say he’ll meet with Robert Mueller
Gage Skidmore / CCL; The White House / CCL
As the Office of the Special Counsel’s investigations into allegations of Russian collusion follow President Donald Trump into his second year in office, a Robert Mueller-led dream team of prosecutors and detectives are said to be discussing conditions for a sit-down interview with the main man himself. Yet, if Mueller thinks that Trump is prepared to roll out the red carpet and muster the welcoming committee for a special counsel that is increasingly looking like a partisan hit-squad, the former FBI director may be disappointed.
Kick rocks, Mueller
“When they have no collusion — at any level — it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview,” Trump said during a recent press conference where he took questions from reporters alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
In the past, the president has appeared amenable to interviews with the special counsel, expressing a desire to exonerate himself and move forward from an investigation which Trump once said “hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country.”
Just this weekend, The Washington Post captured the president’s willingness to cooperate with Mueller. “We have been very open,” Trump asserted to a gaggle of embedded reporters at Camp David. “We could have done it two ways. We could have been very closed, and it would have taken years. But you know, sort of like when you’ve done nothing wrong, let’s be open and get it over with.”
Last June, Trump stated that he would be “100 percent willing” to speak with the special counsel regarding his decision to fire former FBI director James Comey. The president’s critics have long argued that this presidential prerogative represents obstruction of justice, or an attempt by Trump to undermine the FBI’s investigation of his administration for alleged ties to the Kremlin — despite bipartisan calls to fire the FBI chief.
Asked directly about his thoughts on a potential head-to-head, on-the-record talk with Mueller, Trump was not completely dismissive. “We’ll see what happens,” the president offered before contending that there was no reason to interview him without evidence of collusion.
Just say no
The special counsel was established by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after Trump fired Comey, and although several Trump campaign staff have been indicted by Mueller for various crimes, none of these offenses have been related to Russian collusion from Trump or his staffers.
In fact, Trump worries that partisan prejudice may be clouding the objective judgment of special counsel investigators.
Pointing to another high-profile FBI investigation, Trump cited the FBI’s poor track record with interviews:
When you talk about interviews, [twice-failed presidential candidate] Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn’t sworn in, she wasn’t given the oath, they didn’t take notes, they didn’t record and it was done on the Fourth of July weekend. That’s, perhaps, ridiculous, a lot of people looked at that as a very serious breach.
If Clinton received this sort of delicate treatment from her allies within the FBI bureaucracy, then Trump’s legal team must be concerned with how a suspect on less friendly terms with the agency may be treated. Comey later insisted that he was following FBI protocol by refusing to record the Clinton interview, adding that she could still be prosecuted for lying despite not making statements under oath.
The president’s recently acquired aloofness regarding an interview may be a sign of a recently adapted legal strategy from White House counsel. Legal experts like Fox News’ Alan Dershowitz have characterized any potential interview as a lose-lose for Trump.
“I would never let the prosecution interview my client,” said the Harvard law professor, adding that the president should insist upon responding to questions in writing if he is legally compelled to do so.
Of course, there is always an alternative scenario that explains Trump’s sudden brazen confidence vis-à-vis the special counsel. As noted by Dershowitz, a presidential interview very likely signals the end of Mueller’s investigation, since a competent investigator would first exhaust all of his other leads before speaking to the senior ranking suspect.
Knowing this, and realizing that Mueller’s “witch hunt” is coming to an end having only issued low-level indictments against periphery Trump staffers, the president may simply be thumbing his nose at an investigative team comprised of leftist loyalists and passionate Never Trumpers. Why play ball when the rules are written against you?
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