White House Lawyers: Trump Could Provide Written Answers To Mueller Probe

It's barely been 12 hours since Rep. Adam Schiff and his Democratic comrades on the House Intelligence Committee released - with Trump's blessing - a redacted version of their counter to the original "FISA Memo" drafted by Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes - and already its ramifications are being weaponized by the administration.

The memo landed late on Saturday by failing to conclusively dispel the lingering cloud of doubt surrounding the genesis of the Russia investigation and the political biases that might've helped set it in motion, as both sides dug in.


And with little time wasted, the Wall Street Journal this morning published the latest implicit offer from Trump's legal team, which has been conducting its negotiation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in part via the media, as we anticipated earlier this month when we highlighted a New York Times story about Trump's legal team pushing back against its client's offer - which was extemporaneously extended during a press conference - to sit for an interview with Mueller (assuming his lawyers give the green light).

Mr. Trump’s legal team is weighing options that include providing written answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions and having the president give limited verbal testimony, another person familiar with the matter said.

Trump's tendency to embellish has, of course, been widely observed since he announced his intention to run for president. But, as WSJ explains, while those qualities might have benefited Trump on the campaign trail, they pose serious risks during a deposition - where even a slip of the tongue could elicit perjury charges. That's why few were surprised earlier this month when the NYT reported that Trump's legal team was pushing him to refuse Mueller's interview request.


Of course, as any savvy observer has probably noticed by now, the initial NYT report was an effective trial balloon - an opening gambit on the part of Trump's legal team, who no doubt leaked it to their benefit. Public scrutiny adds to the pressure, and by threatening to expose every detail of the negotiations, Trump's team has given Mueller more incentive to agree to some compromise - written answers that can be painstakingly reviewed by a team of professionals, for example - than risk years of legal struggle and ultimately the prospect of an embarrassing defeat.

If Mr. Trump were to face detailed questions involving dates and times, his legal team may be reluctant to have him participate, the person familiar with team’s thinking said. As an example, this person said, general questions about what the president was thinking when he ordered the firing of Mr. Comey might be acceptable, as opposed to what action he took on a specific date and time.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump have studied a federal court ruling from the 1990s that could be the basis for delaying or limiting the scope of an interview, or perhaps avoiding one altogether.

In that 1997 case, a federal appeals court ruled that presidents and their closest advisers enjoy protections against having to disclose information about their decision-making process or official actions.

Legal experts say Mr. Trump’s attorneys can use the case as leverage in talks with Mr. Mueller.

"If it were exclusively a legal judgment, no one would ever do it, but there’s a political aspect to this," Mr. Ray said.

Meanwhile, between the Democratic memo and last week's indictment of 13 Russian internet trolls - including a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin - and 3 Russian entities, no smoking gun linking the President to Russia, or anything even close to that, has been produced. Many have also speculated that Mueller won't be able to demonstrate that the president was involved in a conspiracy against the state. Hence, his pivot toward financial crimes and obstruction of justice.

And given the public's already weary attitude toward the investigation, there's also an element of time pressure that would seemingly push Mueller toward compromise.

Whether Mr. Mueller would agree to the terms sought by the Trump legal team is unclear; his office declined to comment.

"The sooner they make the president available to submit to an interview, the faster that Bob Mueller can get to the finish line and be over and done," said Robert Ray, who served as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation that examined former President Bill Clinton’s conduct.

Negotiations could break down should Mr. Mueller insist on conditions that Mr. Trump finds unacceptable, and the president’s lawyers are prepared to launch a court fight to shield him from testifying, people familiar with the matter said.

However, as WSJ points out, both sides have leverage they can use.

A subpoena from Mr. Mueller compelling Mr. Trump to testify could ratchet up pressure on the president to answer questions.

"The American people really want him to cooperate with this investigation," said Alberto Gonzales, who was attorney general under former President George W. Bush.

Should Mr. Trump face a subpoena, he could try to quash it, setting in motion a lengthy legal proceeding that could deprive Mr. Mueller of an interview any time soon. Guy Lewis, a former U.S. attorney in Florida who has worked with Mr. Mueller in the past, said, "If that’s not two years of delay and litigation, up and back to the Supreme Court, then I don’t know what is."

To avoid a protracted court fight, Mr. Mueller might prefer to strike an agreement on the interview’s scope, he said. "You’re playing chess here, and both sides are smart chess players," Mr. Lewis said.

But there are certain lines that cannot be crossed. For example, Trump's team will likely refuse to allow their client to answer any questions involving specific dates and times...

Whether Mr. Trump winds up talking to Mr. Mueller is one of many lingering questions surrounding the Russia investigation, which has shadowed this presidency since the first.

An interview would pose risks, with the president facing skilled prosecutors armed with documents and witness testimony who have shown they are willing to indict people on perjury charges. Mr. Trump is a freewheeling conversationalist, an instinct that proved advantageous on the campaign trail but could be unsuited to a legal setting. Still, Mr. Trump is no stranger to litigation, having given depositions tied to his career as a private businessman.

"As a lawyer, what I would want to get a sense of is how careful my client is going to be when responding to questions," Mr. Gonzales said. "If I’m totally confident that this person can be careful in saying no more than needs to be said, I might let my client go ahead and testify."

If Mr. Trump were to face detailed questions involving dates and times, his legal team may be reluctant to have him participate, the person familiar with team’s thinking said. As an example, this person said, general questions about what the president was thinking when he ordered the firing of Mr. Comey might be acceptable, as opposed to what action he took on a specific date and time.

Trump's team has reportedly been studying a Federal Court ruling from the 1990s that seemingly excludes a president from being compelled to disclose any information about their decision making process or official actions.

We imagine we'll be seeing some kind of back-and-forth via leaked press reports over the coming weeks, as Trump and Mueller continue to dance around one another ahead of this year's mid-term vote.


Pandelis Deep Snorkeler Sun, 02/25/2018 - 09:34 Permalink

off topic apologies, but probably there won't be a thread for this.


Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem is closed today.  What is next?




There is more beyond the move of establishing the US embassy in Jerusalem, there is a systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land.


There is a clear effort to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem, and it is not about taxes or ... PIPELINES.



In reply to by Deep Snorkeler

dirty fingernails crossroaddemon Sun, 02/25/2018 - 12:29 Permalink

Come on now, both sides are super cereal! They are both out to like almost give each other titty twisters and noogies


Both sides are playing very gently, when you actually cut through the OMG partisan hype. Both sides have far more aggressive tools to fight with, but nobody has even reached for them. The dossier would make a junior high student say "meh". It's really quite sad. And before you fanbois can jump all over me about how wrong I am because "its illegal", the government was doing illegal things and using its power for partisan election shenanigans since before any of us were born. They just didn't make it as public as today, but that's part of the show now. "Keep yer eye on the center ring of the circus, rubes! We also have fantasic distractions going on in several other rings"

In reply to by crossroaddemon

new game Sun, 02/25/2018 - 09:39 Permalink

the funniest of all is,"we the people" think we have a say in this charade.

keep posting though, we the people will change it to fit a prescribed notion of just-us(just them) are still in control of the prescribed outcome destined to be the "whole truth" and nothing but the outcome prescribed from a place on the other side of the earth. thank your god for the this wonderful bigly win....