Reportedly, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is looking to interview President Trump “as part of the Russia investigation.”
Mueller is overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor. He is also said to be building an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump based on his decision to fire FBI director James Comey last May. Comey was overseeing the Russia probe at the time.
A person familiar with the matter told The New York Times on Monday that Mueller’s team is focused mainly on questions about Comey’s firing, as well as former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.
“Trump’s team is reportedly considering several options in response,” including “having the president submit written responses to questions, and submitting a sworn affidavit declaring his innocence and saying he did not collude with Russia.”:
Written answers to questions can be “carefully drafted, edited, analyzed and re-analyzed, whereas a face-to-face interview is unpredictable,” said Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School who is an expert in criminal law. “This is especially true for Trump who resists sticking to a script and is notoriously unpredictable.”
“His word-salad approach to interviews could get him in real trouble in a Mueller interview if he says something that turns out to be a deliberate lie,” he added. “If I were one of his lawyers, I would insist on a written interview and refuse the in-person interview at all costs.”
Prosecutors began looking into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice in the days immediately following Comey’s firing and it was likely fueled, at least in part, by Trump’s own comments. Though the White House initially said Comey was dismissed because of the way he handled the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, Trump later said on national television that “this Russia thing” had been a factor in his decision.
He also reportedly told two top Russian government officials during an Oval Office meeting one day after firing Comey that the FBI director’s dismissal had taken “great pressure” off of him.
Comey added, during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last June, that Trump complained to him about the Russia investigation multiple times and asked him during a private meeting last February to let go of the bureau’s inquiry into Flynn. Flynn was fired one day before the meeting.
According to legal experts, “if Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he asked Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation, it would significantly bolster the obstruction case against him.”