Congressional Republicans, Fox News and allies of the Trump administration are potentially attacking the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller in a pre-emptive strike on the investigation's credibility, said an essay published Wednesday by Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy.
Tracy outlined the risks posed to President Donald Trump by a face-to-face meeting with Mueller's investigative team, writing, "Mueller will almost certainly try to question Trump, setting up a perilous choice for the president: refuse, inciting a political crisis, or give testimony that could prove his undoing."
Trump's unreliability as a witness is notorious. His tendency to exaggerate and misstate the facts could trip him up when speaking to a team as experienced and astute as Mueller's.
“I don’t think there is any gain for him to speak to Mueller,” said former Illinois federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. “My guess is that the White House conversation weighing the legal versus the political downsides happened months ago -- and that this whole effort to undermine and attack Mueller is a way to try to reduce the political downside of taking the Fifth.”
Trump's allies and Fox News have been attacking the Russia investigations from a number of directions, whether through the ongoing manipulation of intelligence data by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) or accusations that FBI investigators belonged to a "secret society" within the government that is determined to bring down the Trump administration.
The smear campaign may well be intended to poison discussion around the question of Russian meddling to such an extent that Trump will face minimal political consequences for refusing to cooperate with investigators.
Trump is reportedly sanguine about any possible encounters with Mueller and his team. Given the thousands of lawsuits in which Trump has been involved over the last three decades, he may be one of the country's most experienced litigants.
This confidence could be misplaced, said Vanity Fair.
“By talking to the government, you’re running an enormous risk of a false statement or perjury,” defense attorney Robert Bennett said to the magazine's Chris Smith. “You can only let your client testify if you know he’ll tell the truth.”