Fresh off his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump returned to Washington on June 13 to face what may be the biggest threat to his presidency — Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Now, Mueller is intent on quickly resolving a central issue with Trump’s legal
team: whether the president will sit voluntarily for an interview in the probe of Russian election meddling, according to current and former US officials.
After months of negotiations, the two sides must find common ground or gear up for an unprecedented legal fight likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court.
“It’s a little bit of a game,” said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a partner with law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.
“Mueller could subpoena the president but probably doesn’t want to. He faces some litigation risk. Trump could fight the subpoena, but he also faces a political risk.”
The interview is key to Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia interfere in the 2016 US election and whether Trump acted to obstruct the probe, one official said.
Trump’s lawyers are concerned that an interview risks opening the president to claims of misleading prosecutors, to “trap him into perjury,” as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani puts it. Yet, the sooner the interview question is resolved, the sooner Mueller could wrap up his probe — a move Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly demanded. Trump’s lawyers have indicated the president isn’t legally obligated to answer questions from Mueller, even if he issues a grand jury subpoena.