South Asian Insider
Should Trump speak to Mueller? A debate
The Washington Post reported last week that special counsel Robert Mueller has told President Donald Trump's legal team that his office will likely seek an interview with the President. Trump indicated he might be willing to be interviewed by Mueller's team, but more recently, he said, "We'll see what happens."
A high-stakes interview between Trump and the counsel appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and the question of whether there were links to the Trump campaign would be a momentous political and legal occasion.
CNN Opinion asked James Gagliano, a retired FBI agent with two decades on the job, and Paul Callan, a former prosecutor, for their takes on whether Trump should meet with Mueller, and if so, under what circumstances.Many legal analysts, including Paul Callan, argue that no skilled attorney worth his salt would ever advise the President to agree to a sit-down interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. The most common -- and safest -- criminal defense strategy places a premium on limiting exposure for a client. A shut mouth catches no flies, as the old saying goes.
But I would argue for a more unconventional legal approach for a wholly unconventional President for these four reasons:First, there is reason to believe that Mueller is not building a strong case against the President on the issue of collusion. The indictments filed against Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, and Rick Gates, Manafort's business associate, were related to conspiracy and money laundering that allegedly took place before their work on the campaign. Meanwhile, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents -- ancillary process crimes, which means that there was criminal conduct (lying) related to the investigation of a crime, but not complicity in the crime under investigation.
In other words, not one of the aforementioned Trump campaign associates have been charged in an underlying scheme related to illegal cooperation with the Kremlin to sway the election. That's critical, because it could well mean that Trump only needs to fear potential obstruction of justice charges related to his interactions with his former FBI director, James Comey, or false statement charges if he explicitly lies to investigators. For those inclined to believe the President, who has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, the sage legal advice would be to help bring the special prosecutor's investigation to a conclusion. Interviews of targets are generally the final act in a judicial melodrama. By agreeing to meet with investigators and telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Trump would help to close this chapter conclusively. And, hopefully, America would move on.
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