Trump stirs pot with Mueller interview offer

Robert Mueller wants to talk to Donald Trump. The President wants to talk to the special counsel -- so it's a done de...

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 12:46 PM
Updated: Jan 25, 2018 12:46 PM

Robert Mueller wants to talk to Donald Trump. The President wants to talk to the special counsel -- so it's a done deal right?

Not quite.

Trump appeared on Wednesday to make a significant gesture by telling reporters that he wanted to testify to Mueller -- and was ready to do so under oath.

His offer came a day after it emerged that the Mueller had requested an interview with the President as he apparently begins to wind up one branch of his investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey while he was probing alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

"I am looking forward to it, actually," Trump said, before offering a preview of what his testimony might look like.

"Here is the story: There has been no collusion whatsoever. There is no obstruction whatsoever," Trump said.

Taking a step further, on the second day in a row of blockbuster disclosures about the Mueller probe, Trump offered to do the interview under oath.

"I would do it," he said. "I would do it under oath, yeah."

On the face of it, his statement represented a significant breakthrough in the Russia investigation, since earlier this month Trump questioned why an interview would be needed because there had been "no collusion."

But the timing of the comment, the circumstances of his legal team's ongoing negotiations with Mueller and the President's own record of reversing apparently adamant statements mean it should be treated with caution.

It was also not immediately clear if Trump's move was a coordinated strategy with his legal team, or a case of the President characteristically speaking off the cuff in a way that could give his lawyers fits.

Of course, the President, in the belief that he is innocent and not at all threatened by the Mueller probe could simply be willing to testify under oath because he thinks it's the quickest way out from under the Russia cloud.

It's possible Trump's move is a shrewd one.

That's because though Mueller seems to be getting to the end of the obstruction piece of the investigation, it would be wrong to conclude that his tactics point to an eventual finding that Trump is guilty of a serious transgression.

He could simply be working through the process of interviews and evidence before wrapping up this area of inquiry, an interview with Trump could fast-track that process.

Even if the President knew he was in some jeopardy from Mueller's investigation, offering up front to testify could be a smart move -- as it makes him look like he has nothing to hide, as part of the pre-interview game of expectations setting.

But given that he left himself a significant caveat, the authenticity of his offer could be in doubt.

"I would love to do it. You know, again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it," Trump said.

So if he changes his mind in the future, Trump will have benefited from the political value of being seen as publicly willing to testify -- but could row back by saying that though he would love to help, he is bowing to the advice of his legal team to respectfully decline.

Trump's comments also come at a critical moment of negotiations on the format and scope of an interview between his representatives as the special counsel's office.

CNN's Gloria Borger and Pamela Brown reported Wednesday that Mueller wants to know about the President allegedly asking Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and about his reaction to Comey's May 2017 testimony on Capitol Hill. He's also interested in the President's outreach to intelligence agencies about the Russia investigation.

By saying he's ready to talk, Trump could be taking part in a good cop/bad cop routine with his legal team as it haggles over the terms of any interview. Discussions could center on whether Trump will be allowed to give written answers, where or when the interview might take place and if his legal representatives can be in the room.

In true wheeler-dealer style, Trump may have simply made an opening offer on Wednesday, that will eventually be whittled down to more limited terms in a final deal.

There's also the possibility however that he may have been acting impulsively, a plausible scenario since he has a record over his first year in office of supplying answers that his audience at any particular time wants to hear.

One member of Trump's legal team, Ty Cobb, appeared to hint that the President's comments were not his definitive position when he said in a statement that the President had been "speaking hurriedly" to reporters before departing on a trip to Switzerland.

"He remains committed to continued complete cooperation with the (special counsel) and is looking forward to speaking with Mr. Mueller," Cobb said, adding that arrangements were being worked out between Mr. Mueller's team and the President's personal lawyers.

If Trump was just shooting from the hip, it's possible that he has actually weakened his legal team's hand, since Mueller could now presumably, argue that Trump has agreed to his terms so there's no sense waiting any longer to get together.

Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst who once worked for Mueller at the Justice Department, said the President may have just put his lawyers in a difficult spot.

"Mueller should say to Ty Cobb and John Dowd, 'Good, your client is all ready to go, we are all ready to go, let's do it in the Map Room on Tuesday with a court reporter and we will settle this thing.'"

"I think that the unscripted appearance of the President talking about this has to make his lawyers a bit nuts because it's very hard to walk this back," Zeldin said on AC 360, adding that the question that would be immediately asked if Trump's lawyers advised him not to talk to Mueller, is: What is he hiding?

CNN has previously reported that some Trump allies do not want him to testify voluntarily to Mueller, fearing he could put his presidency and personal legal position in jeopardy if he does so.

And given Trump's demonstrated propensity to stretch the truth, his voluble temperament and unwillingness to listen to advice, some legal experts also warn that an interview with Mueller could be a perjury trap.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37210

Reported Deaths: 1495
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12048782
Ramsey4777222
Stearns231219
Dakota224890
Anoka2155107
Nobles16616
Olmsted107615
Washington104840
Mower9322
Rice8277
Scott6844
Clay58037
Kandiyohi5661
Wright4535
Blue Earth4422
Todd4002
Carver3611
Lyon3052
Sherburne3035
Freeborn2890
Steele2231
Watonwan2150
Benton2123
St. Louis17415
Martin1615
Nicollet15512
Cottonwood1340
Goodhue1278
Winona12015
Crow Wing10412
Pine1030
Chisago971
Otter Tail921
Le Sueur911
McLeod850
Carlton830
Dodge830
Unassigned8237
Polk812
Chippewa761
Isanti650
Itasca6412
Waseca620
Douglas610
Meeker591
Morrison591
Becker550
Jackson550
Faribault540
Murray540
Sibley532
Pennington510
Mille Lacs342
Brown312
Pipestone311
Wabasha310
Beltrami290
Rock290
Yellow Medicine290
Renville282
Fillmore270
Houston250
Swift211
Norman200
Wilkin203
Redwood170
Wadena150
Aitkin140
Big Stone140
Cass142
Kanabec141
Koochiching141
Marshall120
Grant100
Lincoln100
Pope100
Roseau100
Clearwater70
Mahnomen71
Lake60
Hubbard50
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30173

Reported Deaths: 718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6275178
Woodbury320144
Black Hawk218058
Buena Vista170511
Linn123882
Johnson12318
Dallas122329
Marshall103519
Story7463
Pottawattamie71911
Scott70410
Wapello70230
Crawford6752
Muscatine62444
Dubuque60922
Sioux4610
Tama45829
Wright3771
Louisa36013
Jasper32117
Plymouth3134
Dickinson2592
Warren2581
Washington2349
Hamilton1871
Webster1702
Boone1421
Cerro Gordo1381
Clarke1272
Clay1270
Allamakee1264
Mahaska11517
Shelby1110
Clinton1041
Poweshiek1048
Pocahontas931
Carroll911
Bremer906
Des Moines862
Henry853
Franklin840
Cedar801
Taylor790
Emmet780
Cherokee751
Monona740
Floyd682
Marion680
Hardin650
Guthrie644
Sac630
Benton621
Jefferson580
Osceola580
Jones560
Harrison530
Humboldt531
Butler522
Buchanan511
Iowa510
Lee502
Monroe506
Hancock490
Calhoun482
Delaware481
Lyon400
Madison402
Clayton393
Davis391
Mills360
Palo Alto360
Winneshiek360
Grundy350
Fayette340
Mitchell340
Kossuth330
Lucas304
Greene280
Howard280
Chickasaw270
Jackson270
Union270
Winnebago270
Ida230
Cass210
Appanoose203
Keokuk201
Page200
Van Buren190
Audubon161
Adair150
Ringgold150
Worth150
Decatur110
Montgomery102
Wayne90
Adams80
Fremont70
Unassigned70
Rochester
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Mason City
Few Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 88°
Austin
Scattered Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Charles City
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 87°
HOT AND HUMID
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Minnesota baseball players get a sense of normalcy

Image

Sean's 10pm Weather 7/2

Image

Mask Mandate in Cerro Gordo County

Image

Raising Kids to be Tolerant

Image

Student Athlete Speaks Out About Racist Comments

Image

Volunteer of the Month

Image

June Jobs Report Shows Promise

Image

Intermittent Fasting may slow aging process

Image

Extra enforcement to keep boaters safe and sober

Image

All State Award for local VFW

Community Events