Donald Trump has devoted the majority of the past few weeks to spewing attacks and lies aimed at undermining the special counsel investigating his alleged collusion with Russians during his 2016 campaign for the United States Presidency.
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By contrast, he has vacillated several times on his desire to sit down and actually speak with Robert Mueller, head of that investigation. As of March of this year, Trump and his lawyers insist that he has no obligation to speak with Mueller’s team, a decision which sparked rumors that Trump’s legal advisers feared the ramifications of allowing the president the opportunity to speak under oath.
Thankfully, Mueller has a backup plan when the thin-skinned tyrant ultimately avoids his meeting: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to accounts dictated to The Washington Post this afternoon by four people familiar with the encounter.
“But special counsel Robert S. Mueller III responded 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.
Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.”
Mueller’s warning dates back to the days of John Dowd, Trump’s former lead attorney, who had the following to say at the time of Mueller’s mention of subpoenas, according to two individuals with knowledge of the comments.
“This isn’t some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”
In spite of his initial defense of the president, the infighting in Trump’s legal team regarding the best way to handle such a delicate situation ultimately prompted Dowd’s resignation in March.
Prior to Dowd’s resignation, Trump’s March legal team (since they so frequently change) demanded more specific information about subjects Mueller’s team may ask the president. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow then compiled a list of 49 potential questions Trump may need to answer. The New York Times broke news of the list yesterday, prompting a new discussion about the origin of the leaked information.
Trump’s May legal team, now led by former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, is scrambling to address the queries to be posed by the special counsel. Since they know Trump is reticent to discuss anything resembling to the truth, their primary recourse is denial, with Giuliani pushing for a swift end to the probe.
Trump himself took to Twitter in a desperate attempt to undermine the “leaked” questions.
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
Of course, it was later discovered that the “leaked” questions were potential questions formulated by Sekulow based on information offered by Mueller and his team, so as usual Trump’s tweet holds little substance.
It does, however, reflect his growing frustration with the probe and the staggering breadth of Mueller’s investigation. Trump’s fumes were confirmed by two White House officials.
Dowd, while still in the president’s employ, repeatedly argued that as president, Trump has ultimate authority to hire, fire, or demote any appointees and such decisions cannot be used as evidence of obstruction.
However, many of the questions pertain to Trump’s expressed desire last year to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he made the decision to recuse himself from the investigation. Trump wanted to replace him with someone who would work to end the probe, a desire which could be considered obstruction of justice even though the musing never came to pass.
One of Trump’s primary defenders, famed attorney and Trump advocate Alan Dershowitz, sees nothing but danger if Trump unwisely agrees to an interview.
“The strategy is to throw him softballs so that he will go on and on with his answers. Instead of sharp questions designed to elicit yes or no, they make him feel very comfortable and let him ramble.”
Anyone with access to last week’s disastrous Fox and Friends call-in knows what havoc Trump can wreak when he rambles, and that’s exactly why no one on his legal team, new or old, wants this to happen.
Should Trump and his team continue to dig their heels prompting Mueller’s use of subpoena to force his cooperation, a legal battle unlike any seen in modern history would ensure. The Supreme Court would likely have to get involved, as such an action would certainly impede Trump from running the country.
Wait… actually, this sounds like a good thing. The less power and free time Trump has, the safer the world remains for another day.
A presidential subpoena has never been tested in court. President Bill Clinton was nearly subpoenaed during his term, but the 1998 motion was withdrawn when he agreed to testify voluntarily.
Whatever the plan, Mueller needs to act soon. The fate of too many innocent people rest on his shoulders, and the longer he remains in power, the more grim their fate becomes.