Special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing an interview with President Donald Trump.
It’s not yet clear whether Trump will accede to the request, but he should, for three simple reasons.
The first reason alone commands an obvious answer. If Trump refuses to sit for an interview, Mueller could simply subpoena him to appear under oath before a grand jury. As several legal scholars have noted, we can’t know how events would subsequently unfold, since Trump could fight such an order — but history suggests he might not prevail. The Supreme Court enforced a subpoena against former President Richard Nixon, prompting the final series of events leading to his resignation. Ken Starr also served former President Bill Clinton with a subpoena, which eventually ended in his testimony to a grand jury.
Sworn testimony is an enormous risk for Trump. Better for him that he answer questions in an informal setting where he can seek the help and advice of his lawyers, as testimony under threat of perjury is a major gamble.
Secondly, such an interview would give Trump’s lawyers a very good idea of the areas on which Mueller’s investigation is focused. Ty Cobb and company already have some sense of the probe’s direction from the documents Mueller requested and from debriefs with those witnesses the special counsel has already interviewed. But Mueller’s questions for Trump would reveal the specific facts, sequences, dates and interactions which have piqued the special counsel’s interest. That is invaluable from a strategic perspective.
Finally, it would be an enormous step toward ending the investigation. The fact-finding phase of the Russia inquiry inevitably ends with questions for Trump himself. That interview concluded, Mueller can distill the evidence and assemble his findings. The president’s dogged refusal to submit to questions only extends a clandestine investigation that has deeply compromised his administration.
Trump, his family, and his associates cannot go on for much longer under threat from the special counsel. For his sake, and for the country’s, he should answer Mueller’s questions.
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