Recently, an extensive list of questions Mueller would like to answer President Trump was leaked. 16 topics of query were compiled into a list of 49 questions by Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow. On the heels of the leaked questions, there is now word that in a meeting on March 5th with Donald Trump’s legal team, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, pointed out that he has the option of forcing the President to appear before the Grand Jury via a subpoena.
The conversation took a tense turn after the President’s lawyers insisted he has no obligation to meet with the Special Counsel’s team of investigators looking into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
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.
“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.”
The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd’s resignation.
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.
President Trump’s legal team has been restructured recently, with Dowd leaving and Rudy Giuliani being brought on. The legal team is now left to manage a situation where their tweet happy client is increasingly reluctant to sit down with the Special Counsel, after his own personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been raided by the FBI in the Stormy Daniels’ hush money investigation.
The attorneys for Trump are considering having him submit written descriptions of the events Mueller has expressed interest in. The firing of FBI director Comey and pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign are two topics that seem to indicate the Special Counsel is looking at Obstruction of Justice. If the President were to submit to an interview, the leaked questions would just be the starting point – each question and subsequent answer would lead to additional questions – leading to a lengthy multiple day process.
If the President refuses to sit down with investigators, he could provoke a Constitutional Crisis that will end up before the Supreme Court.
Many legal observers believe that if Mueller issues a grand jury subpoena for Trump’s testimony, the courts will order the President to comply, because the Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered presidents to comply with subpoenas.
During independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton related to Monica Lewinsky, prosecutors eventually subpoenaed the president for grand jury testimony. Clinton’s lawyers attempted to delay Clinton from speaking to prosecutors for months and told a federal judge they would avoid arguing the issue in court. They ultimately agreed to let Clinton appear before the grand jury without the weight of a subpoena.
In 1974, in United States v. Nixon, the Justices unanimously directed President Richard Nixon to comply with a criminal trial subpoena for the White House tapes. And in 1997, in Clinton v. Jones, the Court directed Clinton to comply with a subpoena for his deposition in Paula Jones’ civil sexual harassment lawsuit against him.
Why It Matters
We are a nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal and that no man is above the law. The President of the United States is a public servant and subject to the same laws as every other citizen. There is enormous legal jeopardy if Donald Trump submits to an interview with Mueller, the vast majority being of his own doing. From a legal perspective, his attorneys would be correct to advise him to avoid, at all costs, sitting down with Robert Mueller.
However, we expect our Presidents to follow the law – Donald Trump swore on a Bible as he took the Presidential oath: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The argument during the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky days was that if any regular person had done what Clinton did, they would be fired. And if any of us lied to prosecutors like Clinton did, we’d be in jail for committing perjury. That argument still stands: Donald Trump should honor the rule of law and fully and completely answer the questions asked by the Special Counsel.