Will Mueller Subpoena Trump? Move Carries Risks For Both Sides

The months-long dance between President Trump’s lawyers and Robert Mueller over a voluntary presidential interview has yet to bear fruit, raising the question of whether the special counsel will subpoena the president to testify as part of his Russia probe.

Those who know Mueller professionally say he would not hesitate to compel Trump to testify under oath before a grand jury if he considered it critical that his investigation include testimony from the commander in chief.

Still, such a move would carry risks for both sides, agitating tensions between the White House and the special counsel’s office and potentially triggering a legal battle that could lead all the way to the Supreme Court.

Trump first signaled in January that he was eager to speak to Mueller under oath to show there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow in 2016. Since then, the president’s lawyers say they have been trading proposals with Mueller’s team on the ground rules for an interview. No agreement has been reached.

Trump indicated in an August interview with Reuters that he is now leaning against sitting down with Mueller, fearing it could be a “perjury trap.”

If Trump declines a voluntary interview with the special counsel, Mueller could subpoena him — thereby compelling the president to answer questions under oath before a grand jury. Trump’s lawyers would most likely mount a legal challenge that could lead to a months-long court fight.

Issuing a subpoena also would likely lead to fresh attacks from the president and his Republican allies. Trump has regularly disparaged the Russia investigation as a political “witch hunt,” and on Thursday he told Bloomberg News that he believes the special counsel investigation is “illegal.”

“I think [Mueller’s prosecutors] would be crossing a line and, look, I also think that might play into the president’s hands,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “President Trump wants to fight this out in public because of what he, or the administration, sees as brutal prosecutorial tactics by the special counsel.”

But challenging a grand jury subpoena could also risk giving the appearance that Trump is not cooperating with the investigation, which his critics would undoubtedly seize on.

Read more from Morgan Chalfant at The Hill

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