A new report says that Donald Trump is about to set a historic precedent as the first President to be interviewed by the FBI or a Special Counsel criminal probe this early in his tenure. This follows reports that Trump’s legal team met with the Special Counsel’s office in late December.
President Trump is negotiating terms of his agreement to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller according to an exclusive NBC News report which broke today, citing three unnamed sources.
According to the report, ever since former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort was indicted, President Trump’s criminal defense team has been discussing the potential need to submit to a voluntary interview with the Special Counsel’s office or FBI.
Even arch-conservative Trump supporters say that it’s the only rational criminal defense strategy, while neutral observers say that written answers will never suffice. NBC reports:
The discussions were described by one person with direct knowledge as preliminary and ongoing. Trump’s legal team is seeking clarification on whether the president would be interviewed directly by Mueller, as well as the legal standard for when a president can be interviewed, the location of a possible interview, the topics and the duration. But the president’s team is also seeking potential compromises that could avoid an interview altogether, two of those interviewed told NBC News.
Criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz called the Trump team’s maneuvers “gamesmanship. It’s what any criminal defense attorney would do. I would never let the prosecution interview my client,” said 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.”
Of course, Trump would want to avoid speaking to investigators, but he cannot legally hold out forever in the face of a criminal investigation.
Republican Congressmen spent the equivalent of over a hundred million dollars today on legal fees in the 1990s while prosecuting President Bill Clinton, in a lengthy, leaky fishing expedition, thereby creating a trap with which to legally ensnare any future president involved in a criminal investigation.
Back then, a highly partisan Republican Independent Counsel set precedent when they successfully subpoenaed the president’s testimony in front of the grand jury, under oath. However, the Independent Counsel did agree to a special privilege, allowing Clinton access to legal counsel while being questioned.
One of James Comey’s former FBI Chiefs of Staff – who is not a witness to the investigation – says that there’s no chance Trump will get away without giving preliminary testimony to the Special Counsel’s office, according to NBC:
“Prosecutors want to see and hear folks in person,” said Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and chief of staff to FBI Director Comey. “They want to probe and follow up. Body language and tone are important,” said Rosenberg, now an NBC News analyst. “And they want answers directly from witnesses, not from their lawyers. The odds of prosecutors agreeing to written responses are somewhere between infinitesimally small and zero.”
Trump’s disgraced former National Security Advisor has already turned state’s evidence and pled guilty under the false statements law, which governs all contact between federal investigators and those interviewed, regardless of their being under oath.
The President’s legal team wants desperately to substitute an in-person interview with written answers to questions in order to avoid letting their client speak with investigators for fear that his penchant to lie, fabricate and obfuscate could lead to similar charges, regardless of his guilt in any underlying crime.
Considering that Donald Trump is capable of lying 24 times in a 30-minute period of on the record interviews, there’s a high probability that he will either plead the 5th Amendment or deliver damaging testimony about his political affairs to the Special Counsel or grand jury.
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