Mueller interview over Russia election meddling would be 'fraught with peril', Trump ex-adviser warns

Many believe the President still wants to fire the special prosecutor 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Monday 19 March 2018 17:54 GMT
Michael Caputo: Donald Trump sitting with Robert Mueller would be a situation 'fraught with peril'

A former senior adviser to Donald Trump’s election campaign has said any interview between the President and special prosecutor Robert Mueller would be “fraught with peril”.

Amid reports Mr Mueller has already provided Mr Trump’s lawyers a list of questions he wishes to put to the President, as they continue to negotiate a possible interview, the ex-communications adviser warned his ex-boss against going ahead with such a move.

“I wouldn’t advise it. I hope he doesn’t, but I think he looks like he wants to, and that’s going to be a situation fraught with peril,” Michael Caputo said on CNN.

“I think anybody sitting in front of a special prosecutor stands a chance of a process crime like unintentionally lying.”

Mr Caputo, who worked for Mr Trump from 2014-2016, said he did not believe Mr Trump had anything to hide and that Mr Mueller’s probe would ultimately conclude there was no collusion. Despite that, he said having a one-on-one interview would not be in his interests.

“I just don’t think the President should sit down with him but I don’t see how he can avoid it now,” he added.

Mr Trump has always denied that his campaign in any way colluded with Russia’s alleged effort to interfere in the 2016 election, and has described the ongoing investigations into the issue “witch hunts”.

Over the weekend, he for the first time mentioned Mr Mueller by name in one of several angry tweets.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans,” he said on Twitter. “Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Mr Trump’s comments triggered fresh speculation that he may be seeking to fire Mr Mueller – something the President talked about doing a year ago.

His tweet came just a day after it emerged the government had fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, hours before he was due to retire and would have been eligible for a full government pension.

Such was the speculation that senior Republicans urged Mr Trump not to act hastily. Senator Lindsey Graham said he believed Mr Mueller was following the evidence “where it takes him”, and said the President should allow things to take their course.

Asked about the prospect of firing Mr Mueller, he said: “If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation.

“I think it’s very important he be allowed to do his job without interference, and there are many Republicans who share my view.”

Donald Trump firing Robert Mueller would be the 'end of his presidency' says Senator Lindsey Graham

Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University in New York, told The Independent most people would assume firing Mr Mueller might result in the end of his presidency.

Yet, she added: “Nothing seems to mark the end of his presidency. There is so much other stuff that the Republicans have put up with. There are going to be certain moderate Republicans who would see it as a step too far. But the majority of Republicans in DC appear to be sycophants.”

She said Republicans such as Congressman Kevin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which last month released a controversial memo that sought to expose misconduct by senior FBI officials, were trying to discredit the bureau.

In January, Mr Trump said he was happy to talk to Mr Mueller and was “looking forward” to assisting the investigation.

“I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House. “I would do it under oath, absolutely.”

After Mr Trump make that comment, his lawyers let it be known they did not agree with him. They have been trying to negotiate with Mr Mueller on how the President might cooperate with Mr Mueller and whether a series of written questions and responses could replace an in-person interview. Some reports suggest the President has been told what questions the investigators wish to put to him.

On Sunday night, one of the White House lawyers, Ty Cobb, said in a statement: “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

Juliette Kayyem, faculty director of the Homeland Security Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is among those who believe Mr Trump will fire Mr Mueller because he does not want to answer questions about his financial dealings.

“At this point, Trump has limited options and that is when he does things that you would not expect him to do,” said Ms Kayyem, who served in Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.

She said while the President’s team was prepared to come clean about his alleged “gaming of the system”, or of his treatment of women, Mr Trump considered his financial records and business dealings a closed door.

She said: “The questions Mr Mueller is asking are to do with his finances.”

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