Special Counsel Robert Mueller personally told President Donald Trump’s legal team that the president is not a “criminal target” of his investigation at a White House meeting early last month, according to a Tuesday report in the Washington Post.
Mueller, according to the Post’s three anonymous sources, also emphasized that Trump is a “subject” of the investigation, meaning his conduct falls under the scope of his investigation, and that he still believes his team needs to interview the president. Trump has publicly expressed willingness to be interviewed, but reports indicate elements of his legal team have advised strongly against him doing so. There was broad speculation that the resignation of John Dowd, Trump’s former lead attorney, was driven at least in part by disagreements over whether to submit to an interview.
Mueller also told the legal team his Special Counsel’s Office is preparing a report on the president’s actions in relation to “obstruction of justice.”
“If I were the president, I would be very reluctant to think I’m off the hook,” the Post quotes Princeton professor Keith Whittington:
“My sense of it is the president — given that information — ought to have pretty fair warning anything he’s saying in the deposition would be legally consequential,” Whittington continued. “Depending on what he says, it could wind up changing how the special counsel is thinking about him.”
Neither the White House lawyers nor the Special Counsel’s Office gave the Washington Post a comment on the story.
The report comes on the day the Mueller investigation, ostensibly focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election, delivered its first criminal sentence: Thirty days in jail for London-based Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan for false statements to Mueller’s investigators.
Court documents from another criminal trial arising from Mueller’s investigation, that of lobbyist and former Trump associate Paul Manafort, revealed for the first time Tuesday that a much more detailed description of the probe’s scope was described in an August 2017 memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The document was heavily redacted, but specifically mentions Manafort, and his activities included some far predating the 2016 election cycle.