Legal advice for President Trump: Interrogation isn't the time to judge Mueller's fairness | Opinion
With all due respect, Mr. President, there are much better ways to find out if Mueller will be fair than to serve your head up to him on a platter. That's exactly what you will be doing if you waltz into the interrogation thinking that all you have to do is to tell the truth.
Readers of these pages may recall that I have criticized President Trump's lead counsel for his expressed willingness to freely cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. In my previous piece, I warned Trump's lawyer of a presidential perjury trap being set by Mueller.
As I said then, "Even if the prosecutor can't prove that your client committed the crime supposedly being investigated, he will be charged with obstruction of justice or some similar offense for providing false information to agents or false swearing. This will happen as surely as night follows day." This warning was based on my 20 years of conducting grand jury investigations at the federal and state levels and another 20 years representing grand jury witnesses.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he was willing to be interrogated under oath by Mueller. "I'm looking forward to it, actually," he said, and added, "I would like to do it as soon as possible."
Asked whether he thought Mueller would treat him fairly, Trump said, "We're going to find out."
Wait. What? Trump's lawyers plan to test Mueller's fairness by having the president freely submit to an interrogation? If so, their strategy is deeply flawed and compels me to offer their client this alternative legal advice:
With all due respect, Mr. President, there are much better ways to find out if Mueller will be fair than to serve your head up to him on a platter. That's exactly what you will be doing if you waltz into the interrogation thinking that all you have to do is tell the truth.
Mueller is not your friend and he wasn't appointed special counsel because he is expected to be fair. His appointment came about because his friend and colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, illegally leaked memorandums of his meetings with you in which you discussed the investigation of Michael Flynn. Whose version do you think Mueller will credit if your answers conflict in any way with Comey's narrative? And if Mueller is such a fair-minded square shooter, why did he accept the special counsel appointment when he had such a blatant conflict of interest due to his close relationship with Comey, the chief fact witness in the obstruction-of-justice inquiry?
Moreover, Mueller has assembled a team of lawyers and investigators who by their words and actions have made clear their bias and determination to destroy you. Thanks to recently released text messages, we now know that two former team members, FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, not only supported Hillary Clinton and expressed contempt for you and your supporters, they also discussed figuratively taking out "an insurance policy" against the assumed disaster of your election. Ponder that exchange. Were they planning or did they take official action to undo the results of the election by subjecting you to criminal investigation and prosecution?
In another text message, Strzok expressed to Page his reluctance to join Mueller's team. In an apparent reference to the chances of finding Russian collusion, Strzok texted, "You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I'd be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there's no big there there."
But later, in an apparent reference to Mueller's investigation, Strzok's reluctance seemed to ebb when he texted that it could be "in the history books" and "maybe the most important case of our lives" and later "an investigation leading to impeachment?"
Mueller fired Strzok only after he became aware of these embarrassing text messages. Page had earlier returned to her job at the FBI. But you must consider the likelihood that before he recruited them, Mueller knew of their intense dislike of you, their pro-Hillary Clinton bias, and quite possibly their pursuit of that "insurance policy." Of course, such attitudes and baggage do not make them unique among the members of Team Mueller if you realize that some of them have represented Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, as well as the IT staffer who set up Clinton's unsecure email server and used a hammer to destroy her BlackBerrys. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The relevant statute provides for the appointment of a special counsel when the Department of Justice has a conflict of interest in any given matter. The purpose of the statute is to avoid such conflicts of interest. But, far from being open-minded and conflict-free, Mueller and his team have amply demonstrated by word and deed a level of bias and conflict of interest that far exceeds that which caused the attorney general to recuse himself.
So, Mr. President, don't be so eager to be interrogated by these people. Be on your guard. When Mueller and his assistants ask their questions, think long and hard before answering, confine your answers strictly to the questions asked, do not volunteer information, feel free to consult your lawyers at any time and to take a breather whenever you want. Keep foremost in your mind that Mueller and his team are not on a search for the truth. They are on a hunting expedition for the biggest game of all: you.
George Parry is a former federal and state prosecutor who practices law in Philadelphia. He blogs at knowledgeisgood.net and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.