This is getting uglier by the minute. It’s becoming more evident that Robert Mueller wants to trip up president Trump. Mueller responded to a refusal in March from Trump’s lawyers to appear before the special council that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.
The president’s lawyer fired back: “This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 2, 2018
In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. The New York Times first reported the existence of the list.
The questions focus on events during the Trump campaign, transition and presidency that have long known to be under scrutiny, including the president’s reasons for firing then-FBI Director James Comey and the pressure he put on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.
Now Trump’s newly reconfigured legal team is pondering how to address the special counsel’s queries, all while assessing the potential evidence of obstruction that Mueller might present and contending with a client who has grown increasingly opposed to sitting down with the special counsel.
Trump’s remade legal team is now led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he views Mueller as the utmost professional, but is still reviewing documents and considering conditions he might set before deciding whether to recommend that Trump agree to an interview.
“Hopefully we’re getting near the end. We all on both sides have some important decisions to make,” Giuliani said. “I still have a totally open mind on what the right strategy is, which we’ll develop in the next few weeks.”
In the meantime, Trump’s lawyers are also considering whether to provide Mueller with written explanations of the episodes he is examining. After investigators laid out 16 specific subjects they wanted to review with the president and added a few topics within each one, Sekulow broke the queries down into 49 separate questions, according to people familiar with the process.
Dowd has repeatedly argued that the president has ultimate authority under the Constitution to fire or demote any of his appointees and that his firing decisions cannot be used as evidence of obstruction.
Last week, Giuliani met with Mueller to reopen negotiations for a presidential interview.
Alan Dershowitz, a well-known lawyer and Trump advocate, said Tuesday that it would be dangerous and unwise for Trump to agree to an interview.
Dershowitz says Mueller’s list of questions for President Trump are “designed to let him ramble and talk and I suspect that’s the strategy of the special counsel, because they know that may be President Trump’s weakness”
Alan Dershowitz says Mueller's list of questions for President Trump are "designed to let him ramble and talk and I suspect that's the strategy of the special counsel, because they know that may be President Trump's weakness" https://t.co/w1P7AxHAOS pic.twitter.com/f3qZLltwDj
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) May 1, 2018
“If they were to ask him direct, tough questions to which he can answer yes or no, that might not give them the advantage they are seeking,” he continued.
“The strategy is to throw him softballs so that he will go on and on with his answers,” he said. “Instead of sharp questions designed to elicit yes or no, they make him feel very comfortable and let him ramble.”
In that setting, Dershowitz said, the prosecutors could catch Trump in a misstatement.
Should Mueller seek to compel Trump’s testimony using a subpoena, a legal battle could ensue that could delay the investigation and force the issue into the courts, potentially to the Supreme Court.