This new development occurs seventeen months after the launch of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The country has been waiting a long time for President Trump to speak to Mueller, and it appears we will finally be getting some answers to our questions.
Unfortunately, the questions Trump will answer will focus solely on alleged collusion. This means they won’t deal with the many times Trump may have obstructed justice during the investigation. So, for example, there will be no questions about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and no questions about Trump’s highly questionable tweets which many people think have interfered in the investigation.
One important detail about the interview which sets it apart from other true FBI-type interviews is that it won’t be conducted in-person. Instead, Trump’s answers to the 15 questions will be made in writing.
Mueller’s office has insisted on asking follow-ups and subjecting Trump to a second round of questions. However, according to CNN, that the process for doing that has not been disclosed:
There may be more rounds of questions after the first answers are returned. The special counsel had insisted that there be a chance for follow-up questions as well. But after a prolonged back-and-forth over months, the two sides agreed to start with a first round of questions.
It’s also unclear if an in-person interview will follow the written questions and answers. On Fox & Friends on Thursday the president said that he’s willing to do both. “Well, it seems ridiculous that I would have to do it when everybody says there’s no collusion, but I’ll do what is necessary to get it over with,” Trump said during his call-in interview.
The agreement to respond to questions in writing provides some resolution to an ongoing controversy concerning whether or not Trump would be questioned by Mueller at all. A year ago Trump’s lawyers said they would allow him to sit down for a face-to-face interview with the Special Counsel’s office. But by March, Mueller apparently raised the idea of subpoenaing Trump. That caused more conflict between the parties and by the end of April people close to Trump said that he’d never grant Mueller an interview.
The breakthrough came last month when Mueller signaled his willingness to let Trump provide answers in writing. This is the preferred method for Trump’s lawyers, perhaps because they know he is not likely to fall into a “perjury trap” with written answers.
They have been worried that if he starts talking in an interview with the Special Counsel he will almost certainly lie. Thus they have called any interview with Trump a “perjury trap.” Responding in writing reduces the chances of Trump springing such a trap.
Many people are wondering why Trump and his lawyers are suddenly going along with Mueller’s requests right now.
There has been speculation that Mueller gave Trump a deadline for responding to his questions. Their song and dance about an interview with the president has been going on a long time, and Mueller may be tired of it. He could have told Trump and his team that he would soon subpoena Trump, or possibly just move on with his case without getting Trump’s testimony first. Trump may be worried that Mueller would wrap up the case without ever talking to him. Trump being interviewed is probably the last step in the investigation.
What’s intriguing is that Mueller might still release some bombshells BEFORE the midterm elections. There is no rule against doing that, although Republicans would cry ‘foul’ if he did it.
One thing we do know is that the Mueller probe is very close to the end. He may have several indictments yet to issue, and there could possibly be more trials and/or plea deals coming soon. The interview with the president could wrap it all up, and this is probably causing some sleepless nights in the White House.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.