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How 2 prep Trump 2 face Mueller. . . *PIC*
Posted By: LongGone
Date: Thursday - January 11,2018 08:22
(Politico.com) Bradley P. Moss is a partner at the Washington, D.C. Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, P.C., where he has represented countless individuals (including whistleblowers) serving within the intelligence community, and is also the deputy executive director of the James Madison Project, through which he has represented media outlets such as Politico, Gawker, Daily Caller, and the Daily Beast in FOIA lawsuits against the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
As reports emerge that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking to put President Donald Trump in the interview chair, you’re probably wondering how the president’s legal team can and should prepare him for that meeting if it happens. Although every lawyer has their own style, and we don’t know everything that the president obviously knows about his own actions, there a few simple things that we can reasonably expect to happen before the president gets grilled by Mueller.
First things first: Even putting aside his constitutional title, the president is no ordinary client. He is in his 70s, has a healthy (albeit fragile) ego, and, after decades in the business world, is largely set in his ways about how he likes to do things. He is not a deeply analytical person, and he doesn’t like to get bogged down in details. He will not, for example—no matter how much his lawyers would like him to—be able to replicate the document-specific preparedness Hillary Clinton brought to her marathon, 11-hour congressional testimony concerning the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. That has not been and will never be who Trump is and trying to prepare him in that manner would be a disservice to him, as it would only irritate and confuse him.
That aside, if the president is going to navigate this interview without stepping on any legal or political land mines, he absolutely must listen to the advice his lawyers are likely giving him and take this seriously. When Trump sat for a deposition in the summer of 2016 for a breach of contract lawsuit involving a planned restaurant at the Trump International Hotel, the opposing side’s lawyers’ mouths likely hit the floor when the president stated he had done “virtually nothing” to prepare for the deposition. During the deposition, he often gave boisterous and self-serving descriptions of events that were not completely factually accurate. That cannot happen here.
The president is now facing a prosecution “dream team” the likes of which he has never previously encountered. He cannot walk into this interview with Mueller and wing it.
The stakes are high: I am assuming that Mueller does not primarily intend to use the interview of the president, which he reportedly told Trump's lawyers on Monday that he was likely to request, as a fact-finding inquiry. (Trump countered on Wednesday that an interview with Mueller “seems unlikely.”) If there are relevant and material facts to be found, Mueller’s team has likely already obtained them through the plethora of subpoenas, interviews and grand jury testimony that have already occurred. Mueller’s objective is more likely to evaluate the president’s demeanor when answering questions, particularly when he’s addressing allegations that he tried on more than one occasion to obstruct the Russia investigation.
The president’s motivation—particularly whether he had “corrupt intent”—in taking steps like firing FBI Director James Comey is something that can more easily be extrapolated by observing how Trump explains the context of those actions under pressure from a prosecutor than through a dry review of factual information in and of itself.
This means that the president’s lawyers must prepare him to address any number of potential topics, and also thoroughly coach him on how he will talk about them. They’ll do this with mock interviews. A standard mock session could consist of multiple lawyers jumping in with questions at different times, placing documents in front of Trump and seeking to trip him up on the facts. It would be advisable—although it is debatable whether the president would agree to it—for several mock interview sessions to be conducted before the president sits down with Mueller.
Those mock interview sessions must refresh his recollection about a lot of peripheral details surrounding not only the presidential campaign but also the early months of his presidency, details about which he likely has not thought twice since they occurred. He needs to be able to recall with a reasonable measure of clarity what (if anything) he knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, when he learned of it and the context of his involvement in crafting the official White House response when the media started reporting on the meeting in July 2017. He needs to be able to explain more clearly the motivation for his decision to fire Comey. And he needs to be able to address succinctly his past associations with individuals with questionable backgrounds and alleged ties to the Russian government, such as Russian-born real estate developer Felix Sater.
Since Trump’s lawyers cannot expect him to memorize myriad details concerning all these things, they should craft simple and easy-to-remember explanations for the president to use, and practice them over and over again with him. They need to make sure he is able to stick to the proverbial script when pressed.
This will also help Trump with one of his most important challenges during the Mueller interview: speaking in a clear and concise manner.
Trump is not a man of literary eloquence or refined communication. That can be an asset in this case. He naturally relies upon simple verbiage and is not prone to getting caught up in complicated or nuanced explanations. That’s good. He should keep it simple.
On the other hand, Trump also has a habit of engaging in repetitive but incoherent rants. These are client traits that form the basis for lawyers’ nightmares, and it will be incumbent upon the president’s legal team to smooth over these verbal tics to the best they can. If the president stumbles and gets sidetracked, history has shown us that he will start delving into tangential issues. A veteran prosecutor like Mueller will let the president go down that rabbit hole every time, if only to see if that is where additional information lies that could flesh out the entirety of the story.
If the president is properly prepared and has a fresh understanding of how he wishes to explain his actions and motivations, he should be able to navigate the interview well and avoid any legal land mines. If the president approaches this interview with the same haphazard approach with which he seemingly handles everything else, however, he could find himself in a world of political hurt from which there may be no rescue but impeachment.
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