President Trump could face the greatest political and legal peril of his life if he agrees to an interview with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Mueller would likely confront Trump over whether he obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey. The special counsel could also force Trump to answer tough questions about his knowledge of some of the most controversial events related to the Russia probe.
In addition, the president would almost certainly be required to speak under oath with the FBI or members of Mueller’s team, meaning he could open himself up to a perjury charge by making false statements.
Depositions are familiar territory for Trump, who claims he has testified more than 100 times in thousands of lawsuits over the course of his business career. But Trump may try to avoid a turn in the interview room with Mueller’s team because of the tremendous risks he now faces as commander in chief, some legal experts say.
“Any defense lawyer’s position is, ‘why would I want to subject my client to an interview with the FBI?’ Ask Martha Stewart what a great idea that was,” said Robert Ray, the former independent counsel during the Clinton-era Whitewater probe.
Stewart, the popular lifestyle guru, spent time in federal prison for lying to investigators in a 2004 stock trading case.
While the situation is different for Trump, who almost certainly cannot be prosecuted in the courts as president, he still faces the danger of impeachment.
The so-called “perjury trap” is what ensnared former President Bill Clinton, who testified before a federal grand jury convened by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr in the Whitewater investigation.
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