For months, President Donald Trump, through his attorneys, has repeatedly promised to fully cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which includes the Trump campaign’s possible collaboration with Russian agents and potential obstruction of justice.
In August, when it was reported the Mueller was issuing subpeonas in connection with Trump Jr’s meeting with Russian agents, White House lawyer Ty Cobb promised full cooperation in a statement to CNN:
Ty Cobb, special counsel to the President, said he wasn’t aware that Mueller had started using a new grand jury.
“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Mr. Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly… The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
In October, when Mueller requested an interview with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who was at Trump’s side during the campaign and at the White House, Cobb told the same thing to Politico:
Mueller’s team already has interviewed former aides, including Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and former press secretary Sean Spicer. But the latest round of interviews appears to mark a new phase of the investigation — hauling in current administration officials for daylong depositions.
“Nothing about recent events alters the White House’s commitment to fully cooperate with the office of the special counsel,” White House lawyer Ty Cobb said Tuesday in an interview.
Now that Mueller is reportedly interested in speaking with the president himself, however, Trump’s lawyers are actively seeking ways to avoid Trump testifying.
As NBC News reports:
With the possibility now looming that the president himself could be subject to an interview by the FBI or Mueller’s investigators, Trump’s legal team has been debating whether it would be possible to simply avoid it…
In addition to the possibility of suggesting the president submit written responses in place of an interview, a second person familiar with the president’s legal strategy said another possibility being contemplated was an affidavit signed by the president affirming he was innocent of any wrongdoing and denying any collusion. It was not clear what such an affidavit might state regarding the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 at a time when Comey was leading the Russia probe.
The Washington Post also reports that Trump’s lawyers are “reluctant to allow him to sit down for open-ended, face-to-face questioning” with Mueller.
Mueller is unlikely to bite on these alternatives. Written answers mean the language would likely be provided by Trump’s attorneys, rather than Trump himself. A written submission also precludes follow up questions where investigators can probe inconsistencies. A signed affidavit is even less useful.