Will Mueller Interview Trump?
Brooke: More breaking news we’re following today, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says it is time to subpoena former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and to enforce the subpoena of the former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. I’m talking about Congressman Adam Schiff. He wants to compel both of these men to testify in this House Intel Investigation into Russian election meddling. Lewandowski reportedly, informing Schiff that he will not voluntarily return to appear before his committee. So, let’s talk it all over with CNN Legal Analyst, Page Pate. He’s also a criminal defense and constitutional attorney. Page Pate, nice to see you.
Page: Good to see you, Brooke.
Brooke: So, just your reaction to Bannon trying to save what he has to say from Mueller and Schiff basically saying, you know, not so fast. What happens if Bannon and Lewandowski resist?
Page: Well, it’s a great question because we’re now seeing the congressional investigations play out in many ways the way we’ve seen some of the Special Counsel’s investigation play out. Because subpoenas will now be served and presumably enforced on these witnesses if they do not come to terms and voluntarily appear in front of these committees and produce whatever documents are being requested. Now, once the subpoena has served, the lawyers for Bannon, they can file an objection to that and it would eventually go to court for a resolution as to whether or not they actually have to appear and provide whatever documents are being requested.
Brooke: Okay. That’s those two guys. Let’s talk about the President. Because the latest, you know, sort of strand on the story of will he, won’t he talk to, you know, Bob Mueller or Mueller’s team, the special council, when they ask, they haven’t yet. You know, his lawyers are trying to avoid that potentially. But to me, what’s being overlooked here is the rationale to why Trump wants to talk to him from our reporting page, it’s because the President thinks he is a master at these sorts of things because of his experience with lawsuits and the fact that he has been in so many depositions.
Page: Brooke, I have represented many people, high level executives, political figures, never the President. But many people who were targets of a criminal investigation or a subject of a criminal investigation, and they think if they just had the chance, they could go in there and explain it all to the investigators, they could talk themselves out of being charged. That makes absolutely no sense, especially in a case like this. This is not the beginning of the investigation where the Special Counsel’s Office is simply trying to gather facts. They already have a lot of facts. The purpose for interviewing the President is to confront him with those facts. The missing link here in an obstruction investigation is the intent of the President. And the only way the Special Counsel’s Office really gets to that intent is to interview the President. So there’s absolutely no legal reason for doing it. Any lawyer worth his salt or her salt would never let the President go into an interview like that.
Brooke: So, you talked about all your different kinds of client who thought that they could go in and talk themselves out of it. And in this case we’re talking about the President. What do you think it is? Is it hubris?
Page: I think it is, absolutely, because what are you gonna do? Convince the Special Counsel’s Office that they’re wrong about whatever conclusions they’ve made? We don’t know what conclusions they’ve made, but they have absolutely reviewed a lot of evidence, they know things that the President presumably does not know about what other witnesses like Michael Flynn may have said during his cooperation with a special council. So, you don’t go into an interview and think you can have a man to man showdown when you don’t know what the other side has. There’s just a no-win scenario here for the President by going into a meeting like that.
Brooke: Okay. Let me play one piece of sound. This is from Congressman Trey Gowdy. He is blaming the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, for what he sees as Bob Mueller’s overreach.
Trey: I have fear that jurisdiction may wander a bit. I think it already has. It’s already wandered a little bit, but I would not blame Bob Mueller. I would blame whoever drafted the jurisdiction and the charter that empowered him. And if you look at it, it says matters that may arise from the investigation. What in the heck does that mean? I mean, is that a bank robbery in Topeka, Kansas?
Martha: And that language came from Rod Rosenstein?
Trey: Yes, ma’am.
Brooke: So, what’s the root of the message there, Page? Is that just, again, another example of trying to get out ahead and weaken the Mueller investigation?
Page: I think so, Brooke. Because now, if there’s an obstruction charge or a money laundering charge or something that arises out of the investigation, but is not directly related to the Russia part of the investigation, then you may have Trump and some of his supporters in the White House and in Congress saying, “Wait a minute.” This was something the Special Council was not even supposed to look at and because his direction was so poorly drafted and vague, he was able to, as Representative Gowdy said, “wander into these areas.” But, Brooke, that’s necessary for an investigation like this. We don’t know what evidence the Special Council is going to uncover during the investigation until the investigation is over. So, you have to give the Special Council some leeway to pursue those leads. And there’s always a check, always a check by Deputy Attorney General who can say no, don’t go there.
Brooke: Page Pate, thank you so much.
Page: Thank you, Brooke.
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “The Federal Docket” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal law. Tom was named a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer by The National Trial Lawyers, and is a recognized expert in federal sentencing law. He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.