Trump v Mueller: to speak or not to speak

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The combative tenor was apparent even in the official statement Wednesday from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirming that Flood would replace Cobb, which referred to Mueller's investigation as "the Russian Federation witch hunt".

There are modern precedents of Presidents having to comply with subpoenas (Richard Nixon) and having to testify before grand jury (Bill Clinton).

In the meantime, the White House confirmed Wednesday that Ty Cobb, Trump's lead lawyer in dealing with the Mueller probe, is stepping down - the latest in a series of departures from the president's legal team as it debates whether Trump should agree to be interviewed. She says Cobb informed White House chief of staff John Kelly last week that he would retire at the end of May.

Direct interaction between the president and the special counsel's office has been possible all along, and in an earlier phase, Trump said he wanted to talk with Mueller - if his lawyers said it was OK.

As if all of this were not enough to dissuade a self-confident Trump from sitting down with an all-knowing Mueller and his crew, now come the 40 questions Mueller has told Trump's lawyers he wants to ask the president.

Dowd, who left Trump's defence team soon after, told Associated Press that Mueller's team brought up the issue of a subpoena during the negotiation of terms of a possible interview with the president.

Members of the D.C. bar I spoke with believe that Trump's safest bet, if he is subpoenaed, is to take the Fifth.

Pursuant to applicable Supreme Court precedent, the president must respond to a subpoena authorized by the special prosecutor pursuant to his grant of authority. On Tuesday, the special counsel's office and Flynn, a key cooperator, agreed to put off setting his sentencing date for another 60 days, saying the delay was necessary "due to the status" of the investigation.

Despite clear precedent, Trump may very well refuse to sit down with Mueller and then challenge a subpoena in court.

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Dershowitz said, "Mueller has the ultimate card in his hand, the subpoena card".

On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin predicted that Trump would take the Fifth, asserting his constitutional right not to be forced to be a witness against himself, and blast the entire investigation.

The president's precarious position is not limited to questions about obstruction.

The White House has yet to officially rule out Trump answering Mueller's questions in one form or another.

Meanwhile, Trump aides are negotiating with China about proposed tariffs that threaten to detonate a trader war between the world's two biggest economies.

Others, including one of Trump's newest lawyers, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, appear to want to keep the door open to an interview. "A rigged system!" On the sidelines, Republicans have been threatening to impeach the Trump administration's own Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who has green-lighted the Russian Federation probe and had attracted the ire of Trump supporters.

The lawmakers also asked DOJ to turn over documents on investigation of allegations of collusion between officials with Trump's 2016 campaign and individuals with links to the Russian government in an effort to defeat Clinton.

Indeed, his lawyers have already floated the idea that the Mueller interview is an attempt to catch the president out. And if he were to do that in an interview with Mueller, that could create legal problems. Trump's allies in Congress, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, say they've received assurances from the White House that Mueller's dismissal is not in the offing.

Flood, a former law clerk to the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, has defended former Vice President Dick Cheney in a lawsuit brought by former Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame and represented President George W. Bush in executive-privilege disputes with Congress - suggesting he is well-versed in the powers of the presidency and may invoke those authorities as the Mueller investigation moves forward. Why so much redacting? "At some point, I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!" "He loses. He'll have to testify", Sol Wisenberg, a Washington defense attorney who was deputy independent counsel in the Starr investigation, told me, pointing to the case law.

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