Observing months of negotiations between Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and special counsel Robert Mueller, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York says Mueller holds all the cards when it comes to an interview with the president -- and Giuliani knows he has a losing hand.
According to Elie Honig, writing for the Daily Beast, despite Giuliani acting like a "cartoonish buffoon," he knows that Trump's refusal to voluntarily submit to questioning about his campaign's involvement with possible agents of the Russian government could end in disaster for the president.
As Honig writes, Giuliani has made a great public show of demanding limitations on what Trump can be asked, knowing full well that a seasoned prosecutor like Mueller would never agree to any preconditions.
"Anytime a prosecutor wants to speak with a person about a criminal matter, there’s an easy way (an interview) and a hard way (a subpoena). In an interview, the subject agrees to come into the prosecutor’s office, typically with a lawyer, and answer questions from the prosecutor," Hoenig writes. "There is no grand jury or stenographer, and the witness is not placed under oath. Notwithstanding the relatively informal setting, if a subject lies, he can be prosecuted for making false statements."
While Honig speculates that much of what Giuliani is doing in the media is for show -- to appease the TV-obsessed president and his rabid base -- the former New York mayor knows deep down in his heart that Trump will have to be forced into a sit-down with investigators because settled law will not protect Trump from having to obey a subpoena.
And that is where things would take a terrible turn for the worse for Trump.
"The likely next step would be the issuance of a subpoena and that’s when the different games kick in," Honig writes. "Mueller is looking at this legally. He knows that, if he issues a subpoena, Trump will fight it in the courts, and ultimately the matter will end up in the Supreme Court. Mueller knows history and case law, both of which suggest he would prevail in a subpoena battle with the president."
"Giuliani’s strategy here appears to be more political than legal. Giuliani knows that, if he demands unreasonable conditions, and Mueller declines, then Mueller likely will issue a subpoena," the ex-prosecutor continued. "The court battle over the subpoena, in turn, will take several months, running up to and through the midterms. If that happens, Giuliani and Trump can claim: 'Hey, we offered to come in for an interview, Mueller rejected us, now we are in court thanks to Mueller, so blame him for politicizing this investigation.'"
After all of that public display of grievances, Honig said Giuliani will ultimately acquiesce due to the fear of a grand jury subpoena which would be devastating to Trump.
"If the court agrees that Trump must answer the subpoena, then Mueller has the right to put Trump in front of the grand jury," Honig explains. "That is a terrifying scenario for the Trump team. Not only would Trump have to answer questions directly, in person, from Mueller (or one of Mueller’s elite prosecutors), but—and this is the big difference between an agreed-upon interview and a subpoena—Trump’s attorneys cannot be in the grand jury room with him during questioning. Giuliani must shudder to think of how poorly that would go, as the president, unplugged, surely would lurk between lying his face off and openly boasting about crimes he has committed. "
Given that, "Giuliani likely would significantly revise his recent offer to do a 'voluntary' interview under certain conditions, with those conditions loosening to the point of Mueller’s satisfaction."
You can read the whole report here.