Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Trump Lawyers Seek To Head Off Presidential Testimony

He may consider Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation a “hoax,” but that won’t necessarily stop President Trump from being called to testify. Sources familiar with the matter say that the president’s legal team is already holding discussions with the FBI that may give Trump alternatives to a face-to-face confrontation with investigators.

NBC News reports that Trump’s lawyers are questioning whether and under what circumstances the president would be interviewed by Mueller’s team. Points of negotiation include when and where the interview might take place, the topics to be discussed and how long the interview might last.

Team Trump is also considering options that would prevent a personal interview of the president from taking place at all. These options might include having the president provide written answers to a list of questions or signing an affidavit denying any wrongdoing. The president also has the Fifth Amendment right not to provide testimony against himself.

A former US attorney and chief of staff for James Comey, Chuck Rosenberg, said that the odds against investigators accepting such a deal are “somewhere between infinitesimally small and zero.”

“Prosecutors want to see and hear folks in person,” Rosenberg, currently a NBC News legal analyst, said. “They want to probe and follow up. Body language and tone are important. And they want answers directly from witnesses, not from their lawyers.”

“I would never let the prosecution interview my client,” said famed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, “but I don't represent the president of the United States, and presidents don't want to plead the Fifth. So, this route makes sense.”

In June 2017, the reporters asked the president if he would be willing to testify before Mueller’s team. “One hundred percent,” Trump answered. “I would be glad to tell him exactly what I told you.” Since then, however, Trump has become more critical of Mueller and the Department of Justice.

Given President Trump’s penchant for going off-script, the possibility him testifying under oath likely terrifies his lawyers. The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel can be traced to one such moment after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. In a May 2017 interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, the president linked the firing of Comey to “this Russia thing” despite the official line that Comey was fired for bungling the investigation of Hillary Clinton. Amid the furor that followed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the matter and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as an independent investigator.

Originally published on The Resurgent

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