Today, during a news conference with the prime minister of Norway, reporters asked President Trump whether he will submit to an interview with Robert Mueller without preconditions. Trump responded: “I’ll speak to attorneys, we’ll see what happens.”
Trump went on to say:
For 11 months, they’ve had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government, and it has hurt our government. When they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.
The New York Times calls Trump’s answer “a marked change from last June, when Mr. Trump. . .said he would ‘100 percent’ be willing to give a sworn statement to Mr. Mueller.” I don’t see a change, though. Trump could give a sworn statement to Mueller without doing an interview.
In any event, the situation has changed markedly since last June. Serious questions have been raised as to whether Mueller’s team of Trump-hating partisans is conducting a fair investigation. Moreover, the investigation has spilled over into areas Trump probably didn’t anticipate.
The president seems to have understood Mueller to be investigating issues of Russian interference in the election and allegations of collusion between Trump and the Russians. Increasingly, though, it seems to be focusing on whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Mueller’s friend and comrade-in-arms, James Comey.
In addition, it may well be that Mueller is trying to set the president up for charges of lying to federal investigators, with the interview as his vehicle. In other words, Mueller may be laying a trap.
Under these circumstances, it makes sense that Trump is unwilling to commit to an interview, without preconditions, with Mueller and his team. Ultimately, he might agree to such an interview. Alternatively, he might, for example, agree to answer written questions, either on all topics or just on matters relating directly to claims of collusion.
In any event, Trump is best advised to keep his options open.