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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Trump’s legal team prepares for possibility of Mueller interview

Lawyers for the president are looking at the options open to them as the special counsel gets closer to the White House

Donald Trump's legal team is considering how they will react to a demand for an interview with the president by Robert Mueller. AFP/JIM WATSON
Donald Trump's legal team is considering how they will react to a demand for an interview with the president by Robert Mueller. AFP/JIM WATSON

Donald Trump’s legal team has begun to prepare for the possibility that the president will be called for an interview by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president's lawyers are exploring their possible responses to such a demand, according to NBC News, which said they were looking at options such as providing written answers to Mr Mueller’s investigation into collusion by the Trump team with Russia before the 2016 presidential election.

There is a possibility that the president could be summonsed to a face-to-face interview with Mr Mueller, and the president’s lawyers are seeking to find out what such an interview would involve – such as where it would take place and how long it would take – and whether Mr Trump could avoid such an encounter.

Discussions within the team have been taking place since the October 2017 indictment of the president’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for money laundering in connection with his business dealings with Ukraine. They met with representatives of Mr Mueller’s office late last month, although none of the president’s legal team would confirm the meeting to NBC.

One of the options on the table would be that the president would present an affidavit saying that he was innocent of any inappropriate activity and that he had not colluded with foreign powers.

It is unlikely that the tenacious Mr Mueller, a former FBI director of 12 years standing, will not attempt to interview the president.

“Prosecutors want to see and hear folks in person,” Chuck Rosenberg, a former US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia and chief of staff to FBI director James Comey, told NBC. “They want to probe and follow up. Body language and tone are important. And they want answers directly from witnesses, not from their lawyers. The odds of prosecutors agreeing to written responses are somewhere between infinitesimally small and zero.”

Criminal defence lawyer Alan Dershowitz said that the manoeuvres by the Trump team were simply “gamesmanship. It's what any criminal defence attorney would do."

“I would never let the prosecution interview my client,” said Mr Dershowitz, “but I don't represent the president of the United States, and presidents don’t want to plead the Fifth [amendment]. So this route makes sense.”

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