Donald Trump’s Own Lawyers Have No Confidence In Him
President Trump says he wants to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but his own lawyers clearly don't trust him enough to allow that to go forward.
The New York Times is reporting that President Trump continues to think he should sit down for questioning by Special Counsel Robert Mueller notwithstanding the fact that his lawyers are advising him that it may not be such a great idea:
WASHINGTON — President Trump pushed his lawyers in recent days to try once again to reach an agreement with the special counsel’s office about him sitting for an interview, flouting their advice that he should not answer investigators’ questions, three people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing, the people said. In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt.”
Mr. Mueller, whose team has negotiated the parameters of an interview with Mr. Trump’s lawyers for eight months, sent his latest proposal in a letter Tuesday night, the three people said. Investigators stood firm on the scope of and topics for their questions for Mr. Trump: possible coordination between his associates and Russia’s election interference and whether he tried to obstruct the investigation.
They did shift slightly on format, agreeing to accept some written answers, including matters in which they want to preserve the ability to have Mr. Trump answer follow-ups in person. In doing so, they firmed up a previously expressed willingness to allow certain answers in writing.
The president’s lawyers are unwilling to concede to follow-ups in person, citing concerns that Mr. Trump will increase his legal exposure, the people said. They have been prepared to tell Mr. Mueller’s office there will be no interview, risking a court fight over a subpoena that could drag into November’s midterm elections, but Mr. Trump pushed them to continue negotiating. The lawyers are likely to counter Mr. Mueller’s proposal in the coming days, according to the three people.
“We’re in the process of responding to their proposal,” the president’s lead lawyer for the investigation, Rudolph W. Giuliani, told reporters after an event in Portsmouth, N.H., on Wednesday. The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
The monthslong back and forth among the special counsel’s office, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and the president himself demonstrates the significant obstacles that still stand in the way of an interview. Mr. Trump has put his lawyers in the vexing position of trying to follow the desires of their client while seeking to protect him from legal jeopardy at the same time.
Mr. Trump’s belief that an interview would bring the investigation to a swift end ignores several realities: that the investigation sprawls into areas well beyond his behavior; the possibility that Justice Department officials will hand over the results of the investigation to lawmakers to decide whether to proceed, thus prolonging the inquiry; and the lack of any public indication from the special counsel about how much work he has ahead of him.
If Mr. Trump ultimately decides to refuse to voluntarily be interviewed, he could sustain some political damage as he would be forced to explain to the public why he cannot answer the special counsel’s questions if he did nothing wrong.
The Washington Post has further information about the current state of negotiations between the Special Counsel’s office and the President’s lawyers:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicated this week that he is willing to reduce the number of questions his investigators would pose to President Trump in an interview, renewing negotiations with Trump’s lawyers about a presidential sit-down after an extended standoff, according to two people briefed on the negotiations.
The latest proposal by the special counsel comes as Trump has stepped up his attacks on his investigation and Mueller personally.
For months, Mueller has been seeking to question the president as part of his investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 campaign, which is also examining whether Trump has sought to block that probe.
In a letter sent Monday, Mueller’s team suggested that investigators would reduce the number of questions about potential obstruction of justice they would ask in person and instead seek some answers in written form, according to one person.
The special counsel is still seeking to press Trump on topics related to obstruction, including some questions about the firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey, but not as many as Mueller originally sought.
The two sides have been at an impasse since March, when Mueller raised the possible threat of subpoenaing the president.
Earlier this summer, Trump’s legal team sought to set specific conditions on an interview and make central topics off limits — conditions they believed would be dealbreakers for the special counsel.
Among them: that Mueller not ask any questions about actions Trump has taken as president, including his private discussions with Comey.
Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani told The Washington Post earlier this month that he believe such questions could unfairly expose Trump to claims of perjury.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys, declined to comment on the new Mueller proposal about a presidential interview and whether the Trump team might accept the offer.
“There continue to be ongoing discussions,” Sekulow said. “Nothing’s decided.”
Giuliani told reporters in New Hampshire on Wednesday that Trump remains willing to be interviewed if the lawyers can agree on ground rules.
“I’m not going to give you a lot of hope it’s going to happen,” he said on CNN. “But we’re still negotiating.”
“He’s always been interested in testifying,” he added. “It’s us — meaning the team of lawyers, including me — that have the most reservations about that.”
As I’ve said before, it’s easy to see why the President’s lawyers would be reluctant to let their client sit down for questioning by the Special Counsel and his investigators without limiting the timing and scope of that questioning as much as possible. As we’ve seen numerous times since he became a candidate for President, and even well before them, Donald Trump has shown himself to be a man with what can only be described as a casual relationship with the truth. Time and again while he was a candidate, Trump repeated obvious falsehoods in his campaign speeches, during debates, and during interviews, and even when called out for such lies he would brush the accusation aside with seemingly no concern that he had been caught in a lie. Since becoming President, The Washington Post’s fact-checker team has cataloged more than 4,200 lies that the President has told over just over the first 558 days of his time in office. Given this, and given the President’s well-known inability to stick to a script in an interview or a speech, his lawyers obviously believe that putting him in a room with Mueller and his team of investigators would be too much of a legal risk, hence the reason that they are seeking to limit his exposure to questioning.
The most notable indication of this, of course, can be seen in the remarks that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani regarding his client’s potential exposure to legal liability not only for any potential collusion or obstruction of justice charges but also to potential perjury charges. As we’ve learned in the recent past in the case of notable persons ranging from Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, one of the easiest ways to find oneself in trouble with Federal law enforcement is to lie to a Federal investigator. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Sec 1001, it is a crime to lie to a federal officer during the course of an investigation. For the purposes of this statute, it doesn’t matter if the lie occurs during the course of a court proceeding, during testimony before a Grand Jury, or in an informal interview such as the one Mueller is apparently anticipating. It also doesn’t require that the person who tells the lie be under oath, which is why the complaints of conservatives that Hillary Clinton was not put under oath when she was interviewed by the F.B.I. back in July 2016 were without merit. Had she told a lie, she could have been charged with a violation of Section 1001, and the same thing would be true of the President if he ended up lying either in an interview with Mueller or in response to written questions. This is sometimes referred to as a “perjury trap,” but as one of my law professors pointed out years ago it’s only a perjury trap if you actually commit perjury. If the President tells the truth and has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to worry about.
To be frank about it, if I were one of Trump’s attorneys I would probably be reacting the same way they are. Taking into account, as any good lawyer would, this President’s relationship with the truth, his history of being unable to stick to a script, and his habit of lying especially when it involves something that could implicate him make any time he spends talking to Mueller, the idea of a free-wheeling interview would not be in the best legal interests of a client like Trump. While it is probably impossible from both a political and public perception point of view to prevent such an interview from happening if it did happen my goal would be two-fold. First, under no circumstances would I allow a client like Trump to meet alone with Mueller or any of investigators without any counsel present. Second, I would want an agreement beforehand that limit the scope of the questioning and the time that the President would spend being questioned. This appears to be exactly what Trump’s attorneys are doing. Of course, I’d also never want to represent a client like Trump to begin with, but that’s another question entirely. When you have a client that you have to presume is a liar, it’s best to walk away no matter how high the fees you might earn might be. Clearly, Trump’s lawyers aren’t doing that, but it’s also clear that they believe he’s either too stupid or too untrustworthy to be able to handle an interview with the Special Counsel.
I don’t think it’s a trust thing, per se. Even if Trump were the smartest man on earth and were completely innocent, there would still be no legal benefit to him meeting with Mueller.
IMO, the ‘I really want to be interviewed’ is a public posture taken for political gain. The ‘I can’t because my lawyers…’ is just directing the “blame ” away from himself.
Alternatively DJ is just so consumed with with his own powers of persuasion that he thinks that he (alone) can get Mueller to agree that 3 million aliens voted for Hillary.
I hope El Cheeto will give in to his megalomania and meet alone with Mueller.
If I were his lawyer (besides first asking for a massive retainer and not doing a lick of work until I cashed it), I’d physically stuff a gag in his mouth and remove it only after instructing him how to answer, with the caveat that if he f***ks it up it’s entirely his fault. I’d also make damn sure to make a video recording of the interrogation.
OT, are comments being dropped? 10 minutes ago there were 2 comments (both legit), now there are none?
I agree it’s just political posturing and that the President* has no interest in the meeting.
I will never figure out why his supporters can’t see through the lies though. That said, fifteen years ago I couldn’t understand how people were unable to see how Bush was rushing/hampering the work of the UN inspectors so that he could march us off to war in Iraq.
To be a Republican requires the ability to suspend disbelief.
Maybe it comes down to the old saw about how difficult it is to persuade somebody of a fact when their salary depends on not understanding it.
See, this all makes perfect sense if you’re a devotee of QAnon. The Mueller investigation is merely a cover for the fact that Mueller and Trump are engaged in a valiant quest to bring down the deep state, which is a global satanic pedophile ring involving Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Jacob Rothschild, plus many other top Democrats, all of whom are wearing monitoring bracelets prior to their being shipped to Guantanomo. And QAnon is JFK, Jr., who faked his own death 19 years ago.
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It’s not either/or…it’s obviously both.
As I just typed on another thread; there is enough evidence in the public view to charge Dennison with Conspiracy and Obstruction, and I’m betting we know a tiny morsel of what Mueller knows. Add to that the fact that Dennison is a walking perjury charge, and it makes no sense for him to do an interview.
I am very amused, though, by the idea that Dennison thinks he can waltz in there and convince Mueller that Mueller’s investigation is a baseless witch hunt. Captain Bone Spurs is afraid of Jim Acosta…he’d be wetting himself 3 minutes into an interview with Mueller – a legitimate war hero.
For the same reason millions believe the WWE is real.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
For the same reason millions believe Fox News is real.
With all due respect, you are applying the wrong standard here. Whatever his criminal interests may be, he has a duty and an obligation as the President of the United States to cooperate fully to demonstrate he is innocent. (Side note: he can’t. He’s guilty.) These aren’t questions about his personal sex live or whether he had an affair, it is (extremely legitimate) questions about whether he is selling out the country by abusing the powers of his presidency. In another post Doug mentioned that Trump is due to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That only applies to his criminal conviction. In reality the most significant question is whether or not he is fit to remain in office and command the powers of the presidency. Given the myriad credible allegations against him he is obligated to do everything in his power to demonstrate that, assuming he is innocent. (Which of course he is not.) But he has done the opposite. In fact he has behaved exactly as if he is guilty on just about all accounts. This doesn’t just apply to a president: It applies to anyone with enough power to cause serious harm, whether it is a company CEO, a high school wrestling coach or a school bus driver. If credible accusations are made against such a person and they proceed to lie and obfuscate rather than convincingly refute the argument then, at the absolute minimum, they should be suspended from their powers while an investigation is conducted. For the President this process is called impeachment. But the quisling/traitors/fellow travelers that make up the Republican Party today don’t have the ethics or backbone to do what is right.
As far as I know, if prosecutors or other government investigators want to question someone, they have the power to compel such questioning through a grand jury.
Also as far as I know, though you can have lawyers present for any questioning, you can’t have your lawyers present for a grand jury interrogation.
I may have it all wrong.
@Bob@Youngstown: @CSK: It’s clear now that by the time the hosts fix the current glitches (the lack of functional Preview, the lagging updates to a page, the way new upvotes/downvotes aren’t displayed until a new comment is posted to a thread, the need to keep writing in one’s sign-in information), I will be permanently in the habit of hitting “refresh” immediately after first loading a page.
Only a fool would meet with a federal agent without massive preparation and a lawyer present. So I expect Trump to give in any day now.
Trust has got to be one of the worst clients in legal history. I like to imagine there’s a field in Missouri or something where former Trump lawyers are set free to run around in the sunshine until they forget they ever heard the name Donald Trump.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl: No, I can’t go with that. WWE is theater at it’s core. There’s nothing about this stuff or the content of Fox News that is theatrical except in the sense of hyperbole.
His supporters see through the lies just fine. They just don’t care that he’s a liar.
Quite frankly Trump’s lawyers not wanting him to meet with Mueller shows a higher level of competence and comprehensions than their public statements had led us to expect.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
I don’t know that I agree…it’s definitely parody, with Hannity and the other actors playing a part. What they are saying is largely fictional.
Fox News is to journalism as the WWE is to wrestling.
It’s not classical “theater of the absurd”…but it is absurd theater.
Why do people assume he will perjure himself? It’s just as likely that with a little flattery, he will start bragging and tell more of the truth than he wants, and then leave the meeting and start tweeting about how “Meuller is a strong man. Very strong. Loves his country. We had a great discussion, he will be arresting Crooked Hillary.”
All Meuller has to do is suggest that he has tortured people, and Trump will respect him the way he respects Dear Leader Kim, and will start trying to please him. And maybe ask “where did you learn that Crooked Hillary was so crooked?”
Future Presidents aren’t going to ask for all the information about Area 51, the Kennedy murder, etc. They are going to ask for every minute of Mueller questioning Trump. And a lot of popcorn.
Because the man can’t help lying. It’s as natural to him as breathing. Indeed I get the sense that he is completely out of the habit of even trying to remember facts, because spewing bullshit is what he’s done his entire life.
Now there’s a slightly estoric fact that a lot of people aren’t aware of, which is that lying under oath doesn’t constitute perjury unless it’s over a matter deemed material to the proceedings. So if he claims under oath that he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever, that wouldn’t be perjuring himself according to the legal definition unless the lie was somehow related to Mueller’s investigation in a way that could alter the outcome of the case.
That said, it’s unrealistic to believe that Trump would reserve his lies for things that don’t matter. That would suggest a level of self-control there’s no evidence he possesses.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: The WWE is a pretty good analogy. Arguing with a Trumpoid is as meaningless as arguing with a WWE fan. “But don’t you see!!!!??? Those fights are FIXED!!!” For those WWE fans that actually, truly believe it is real, well, you can’t argue with crazy and there’s no point in arguing with the mentally deficient. And for those WWE fans in on the joke, all you are doing is making yourself ridiculous. And some subset of those fans are entertained rather than annoyed. Hence our resident Trumpoids.
But everything is either a threat or bragging with him. Just get him bragging — he didn’t collude with the Russians, he used the Russians… that’s not collusion. Biggest electoral victory in history, look at that map.
Sure, he will lie if he has to in order to boast about how great he is, but get him pointed in the right direction, and he will tell everything he knows. And Meuller’s team seems like they might know how to interview. That seems like a far greater danger than just lying.
I do expect that Trump and his lawyers might have an exchange right out of the Blues Brothers though.
Giuliani: “You can’t lie to a special prosecutor.”
Trump: “I didn’t lie to him, I bullshitted him.”
Trump: “How much for the women? How much for the little girl?”
From the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT):
23. Your client is both an idiot and a pathological liar. An experienced federal prosecutor wants to interview him regarding his state of mind. As his defense attorney you:
a) Advise him to take the meeting and call in sick the day of.
b) Update your resumé, start making calls to law firm recruiters.
c) Slip your client a cyanide capsule and urge him to ‘do the right thing.’
d) Slip yourself a cyanide capsule, ’cause ETTD, man, ETTD. It’s the new PTSD.
e) Laugh and laugh and laugh for as long as the nitrous oxide lasts. Then start drinking.
We may be arguing semantics here. Your point as I understand it is that Mueller could prod him into admitting more than he intends–and I totally agree. But that still wouldn’t preclude perjury. It would be like if he said, “I didn’t rob the bank. What I did was successfully negotiate with the tellers because my awesome deal-making skills were able to persuade them that handing over the money was a better choice for them than eating lead salad.”
Now perjury is a very technical crime that usually isn’t brought out unless prosecutors think it’s the easiest path to conviction. It’s possible that what Trump tells the truth about will wind up being far more important than what he lies about. But with someone like him, that’s far from inevitable. And it will be interesting if perjury becomes the focus of an impeachment after what happened 20 years ago. I relish hearing Republicans try to explain why lying about Russia is a peccadillo whereas lying about a BJ wasn’t.
@Kylopod: Doesn’t perjury also require intent? You can make false statements under oath, so long as you believe them to be true.
I think we have our reasonable doubt right there. Donald Trump believes his lies.
It would be nearly impossible to construct a jury of 12 that would vote unanimously to convict Donald Trump of perjury. And, if you cannot convict someone of a crime, is it really even a crime?
@MarkedMan: My daughter’s ex was a passionate WWE fan. It was remarkable to see him jumping up and down in excitement as all the tomfoolery went on. She developed a theory: WWE is soap opera for boys.
Really fits well when you extend it to Pres Trump. Loads of colorful villains and brave staunch heroes, all kinds of kinetic action that borders on unbelievable, hairs-breadth escapes. And in the end you’re sure the good guys win.
Agreed, but that’s his concern, not his lawyers. His lawyers’ job his to keep him out of jail, not help is political career.
If, say, Trump were to testify under oath that he knew nothing about the meeting in Trump Tower, and then they were able to obtain a recording of him talking about the meeting at length, that would probably be sufficient proof of perjury. (The only way I can see out of that would be if his team were to argue that he’s suffering from serious memory problems due to old age–which is actually plausible but is the sort of defense Trump would sooner swallow cyanide than resort to.)
A jury is not going to convict him over this. But a Democratic House might impeach him over it. (Having 2/3rds of even a Democratic-controlled Senate vote to convict him is a much longer shot–but that’s true no matter what the charges.)
Agreed 100%. But it’s important to note that the lawyers work for Trump, not the other way around. As a criminal and traitor looking to get away with the crimes he should listen to his lawyers. But if he was a real President (by definition he would then be innocent) he would give Mueller what he was asking for.
Take lying seriously? They’re all on the verge of declaring that collusion with Russia to defeat Crooked Shrillary is not a vice.
Oh, Oh! I know this one!
Any of the above!
These are not completely separate issues.
Depending on what he did, his best shot at staying out of prison might be to pull a Nixon and get pence to pull a Ford. In that case, and since he won’t take that legal advice, they should push him by any means necessary into a solo meeting with Mueller.
So, well, they wouldn’t be helping his career, but the career is involved in the matter.
Surely El Cheeto thinks he can pardon himself and stay in office and run for reelection. I don’t think anyone can pull that off, and I’m hopeful his lawyers will agree (Giuliani might be the exception).
You must have the updated edition of the LSAT Test booklet.
my edition shows:
e) Offer your client a cool refreshing glass of Kool Aid before ‘we discuss this matter further’
@Daryl and his brother Darryl: I don’t actually watch Fox News enough anymore to have an opinion (I used to watch it a little most days when Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke were on and Krauthammer hadn’t gone insane yet), but I can see the comparison, and I liked the word play between theater of the absurd and absurd theater.
I’ll give your thought a “snaps up.”
@MarkedMan: I actually watch WWE. I’m a fan of the wrestling itself and the booking that goes into how the matches enhance or create story line. The booking has been really bad on the main shows for years now, but that’s because the main product isn’t actually the wrestling anymore but rather the network and the PPVs. 205 Live and NXT have better booking so the matches are pretty good even though with the camera placement and HD you can see most of the fakey elements of the bumps. Some of the bumps are pretty sick (in the “sick=cool” sense) though.
ETA: Been a fan since I was a child and went to see the first Wrestlemania at the Kingdome in Seattle and took the night off work to see the first ever WWE match in Tacoma. I remember what Gorilla Monsoon said to Tom Snyder in a TV interview in the 80s about “the fakeness.” It was something to the effect of yeah, we try to fake the broken legs and ribs as much as we can. I still wonder whether there was still at least a little shoot wrestling in the 50s, but by the time I was in college, you had to do the whole “suspension of disbelief” thing in order to really understand and get into it.
@JohnMcC: Shows how little you know about WWE. The “faces” lost most (almost all, IIRC) of the matches on the last PPV (and the episode of NXT last night, too).
@Just nutha ignint cracker:..you can see most of the fakey elements of the bumps.
Kinda’ like watching NFL Preseason Football!
@Just nutha ignint cracker: It seems I discover daily how culturally out-of-touch I am.
It’s right down the road from me. They’re still running.
Dumb Donnie is never going to talk to Mueller unless he is forced to with a subpoena. His lawyers want a narrow limit on what Mueller can ask him, like what is your name and nothing else and that is not going to happen.