If the president were my client, I would advise him not to submit voluntarily to an interview, under oath or not, with Special Counsel Mueller, writes former Federal prosecutor, current Popehat blogger, and Reason Contributing Editor Ken White. It offers him nothing but risk, even if it offers the rest of us entertainment or schadenfreude.
And that's not just good advice for the president; it's good advice for everyone.
The president is no mere witness. He is at least a Subject, and likely a target, of the special counsel's investigation. In federal criminal parlance, a witness is someone not suspected of wrongdoing who has useful information, a subject is someone suspected of wrongdoing who may well be charged if the evidence supports it, and a target is someone whose indictment is actively sought as a purpose of the investigation. When the feds interview a subject or target, their goal is not mere information-gathering or fact-finding or "clearing a few things up." Their goal is the hunt.
In the old westerns, rather than take the trouble of hauling mustachioed miscreants to desultory trials, lawmen would often provoke them into drawing first, thus justifying shooting them down where they stood. A modern federal interview of a subject or target is like that. One purpose, arguably the primary purpose, is to provoke the foolish interviewee into lying, thus committing a new, fresh federal crime that is easily prosecuted, rendering the original investigation irrelevant. Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which makes it a felony to lie to the feds, is their shiny quick-draw sidearm. This result not an exception; it is the rule. It happens again and again.
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