Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wants to sit down and “interview” president Donald Trump as part of his legal investigation of collusion of the Russians into the 2016 election and potential interference in the investigation by the Justice Department and FBI.
Trump’s lawyers want limits on what questions will be asked and wants them presented in writing ahead of time to limit a freewheeling sit down between the beleaguered president and the man who could put his future in jeopardy.
Sources close to the president claim Trump is “comfortable participating in an interview” and feels it would “put to rest” questions about his campaign’s involvement or coordination with Russia in the upset election that put him into office.
“This is moving faster than anyone realizes,” one source tells The Washington Post.
Trump’s attorneys say they aren’t comfortable letting him face Mueller in face-to-face questioning without agreed-upon limits and note that President Ronald Reagan agreed only to respond, in writing, to written questions during the Iran-contra investigations in the 1980s.
Still undetermined is whether or not Trump is willing to “testify under oath.” Trump’s attorneys want to avoid a situation similar to former president Bill Clinton’s lies under oath about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb, in a written statement, says “the White House does not comment on communications with the OSC (Office of the Special Counsel) out of respect for the OSC and its process. The White House is continuing its full cooperation with the OSC in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution.”
Trump’s personal lawyers declined comment but sources say they are worried about Trump’s penchant for exaggeration or misinformation that could come out in a face to face sit down with Mueller. Doing so could open the president up to charges of perjury if he does so under oath.
Trump’s attorneys and lawyers from Mueller’s office plan additional meetings to set “the ground rules” of any appearance of Trump as well as “the categories of questions” that would be posed.
Two areas likely to generate questions includes Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as FBI director, his reported demand for a public statement from Comey that he was not involved in any investigations and his dictation of a misleading statement about a meeting by his son, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian lawyer during the presidential election.
Sources within the OSC say Muller most likely will not agree to any witness, even the president, being allowed to give written answers to questions to avoid a face-to-face meeting.
“We are dealing with a veteran prosecutor with a proven record of getting to the truth,” says one lawyer close to the investigation. “He wants Trump to answer direct questions, under oath. He won’t accept anything less.”
Trump claims he has nothing to hide.
“Just so you understand, there’s been no collusion, there’s been no crime, and in theory everybody tells me I’m not under investigation,” Trump said at Camp David over the weekend. “Maybe Hillary [Clinton] is, I don’t know, but I’m not.”
Those comments brought a laugh from a lawyer familiar with the OSC probe.
“Of course the president is under investigation,” he says. “He and his actions are the primary focus of Mueller’s investigation. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a fantasy world.”
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