“Robert Mueller, the newly named special counsel investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, may find himself in the extraordinary position of questioning President Donald Trump.
There is precedent for this. John Danforth, the only other person to be named a special counsel under the same statute as Mueller, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that he conducted a phone interview with Bill Clinton as part of his investigation into the Waco siege. He said it was the only contact he had with anyone in the White House during the investigation, and he did it “in the name of thoroughness.”
Mueller may need to be similarly thorough.
“That’s investigative procedure 101,” said Julian Sanchez, an expert in national security law for the libertarian Cato Institute. “Unless it’s a secret investigation, if you’re conducting an investigation, you interview its subject.”
“He would need to interview anyone who’s a subject of the investigation,” Sanchez added. “That’s Trump, and, at minimum, personnel associated with the campaign.”
“I can’t imagine he would not be interviewed,” said Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer.
Mueller has been charged to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” that the FBI has been conducting into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian government officials. That would likely include the allegations from James Comey, who reportedly wrote in a memo that Trump asked him to curtail part of that investigation before firing him.
Like Comey, Mueller knows a thing or two about memos.
Mueller, who became FBI director a week before 9/11, was a colleague of James Comey during the Bush administration. And one of the most consequential moments in that relationship involves note-taking––a skill Comey has clearly adopted.
As Comey revealed in Congressional testimony in 2007, he and Mueller clashed with top Bush White House officials in March 2004 over an effort to reauthorize NSA surveillance. Comey was Deputy Attorney General at the time––second in command at the Justice Department. Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andy Card, then Bush’s chief of staff, tried to get then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on the continuation of a warrantless wiretapping program when he was gravely ill in the hospital.
When Comey learned what Gonzales and Card were trying to do, he let Mueller know and then raced to the hospital. He got to the attorney general’s hospital bed while Gonzales and Card were there, and managed to keep him from signing anything. Mueller got to the hospital room after the drama unfolded.
And, like any good FBI hand, Mueller took notes.
In 2007, when Alberto Gonzales was attorney general, he testified before Congress that Ashcroft was lucid and talkative on the night of the hospital visit. Comey later gave testimony countering what Gonzales said, saying Ashcroft was clearly sick and distressed. And Mueller’s notes became a pivotal piece of evidence to clear up the disparity, as the Washington Post reported at the time. He turned over a heavily redacted version of those notes to the House Judiciary Committee, showing Gonzales had misinformed the committee.
The news of Mueller’s notes broke on Aug. 17, 2007. Ten days later, Gonzales announced he would resign.”
Can’t imagine that Trump is too happy about the Mueller appointment. But, he has nobody but himself to blame (something he never does, preferring to cast blame on others).