President Trump boasted earlier this month that he would be more than happy to engage in an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into possible ties between his associates and Russia’s election interference, and whether he obstructed justice. Now it is being learned that President Trump’s lawyers and most of his advisers are cautioning him against this step.
According to The New York Times:
“His lawyers are concerned that the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators.”
Whether or not Trump finally decides to speak to Mueller would be a very important point for the investigation, and no matter which way he chooses, the implications will be far-reaching. On the one hand, The New York Times also reported the following:
“Refusing to sit for an interview opens the possibility that Mr. Mueller will subpoena the president to testify before a grand jury, setting up a court fight that would drastically escalate the investigation and could be decided in the supreme court.”
Even if this is an extreme example of what could possibly happen, it will open up the debate of what exactly Trump has to hide and only lead to a further prolonged investigation that would only stand to hurt the Republicans at the 2018 Midterms approach. On the other hand, the concerns of Trump's lawyers in allowing this interview to take place are obviously not unfounded. Trump very clearly has a history of making entirely false statements; it is possible that he will not understand the gravity of the situation and make such statements and contradictions when speaking to the prosecutors.
Of course, not everyone on the Trump team is advising against cooperation. A few, along with one voice, in particular, are arguing for it:
“One of the few voices arguing for cooperating with Mr. Mueller is Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer whom Mr. Trump also brought on to deal with Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Since Mr. Cobb was hired in July, he has argued that the White House should do everything possible to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s investigations.”
But the more dominant voices, such as that of Trump's previous personal lawyer John Dowd, disagree and strongly advise against any such meeting. Most of the Trump team, including Chris Christie, Dowd, and Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s longtime attorney, state that no interview should take place unless there are legal mechanisms that force him to do so.
"Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who led the presidential transition team until just after the election, bluntly said last week that Mr. Trump should reject a request to be questioned.
'I don’t think the president of the United States, unless there are credible allegations — which I don’t believe there are — should be sitting across from a special counsel,' he said on ABC’s 'Good Morning America.'
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump, echoed that advice.
'The idea of putting Trump in a room with five or six hardened, very clever lawyers, all of whom are trying to trick him and trap him, would be a very, very bad idea,” Mr. Gingrich said last month on “Fox and Friends.'"
While refusing to cooperate is not unprecedented, the only true example that comes to mind is the lack of cooperation from a sitting president during a special counsel's investigation of the administration. This presents a similarity to Nixon’s refusal to hand over tapes that incriminated him and others, and Nixon is never the example a president should really lead by.