TrumpWatch, Day 382: Lawyers to Trump — Refuse Interview in Russia Investigation

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Donald Trump's lawyer John Dowd (Jim Lee/Bloomberg/Getty)

Lawyers fear Trump could be charged with lying to investigators


Developments on Day 382 of the Trump Administration:

Advice Contradicts Trump’s Public Willingness to Testify

Donald Trump’s lawyers advise him to refuse a summons for questioning by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Trump-Russia investigation, according to “four people briefed on the matter”.

The lawyers are concerned that Trump will be at risk of being charged with lying to investigators.

Trump has publicly said, including last month, that he is “100%” ready and “looking forward” to speaking with Mueller over contacts between his advisors and over Russian officials, and over evidence that he obstructed justice in an effort to end the investigation.

John Dowd, the defense lawyer hired last summer to represent Trump in the investigation, has urged a rejection of Mueller’s request. So have Dowd’s deputy,Jay Sekulow and White House advisors. The lawyers and aides believe the Special Counsel may be unwilling to subpoena the President, as they think Mueller lacks legal standing to question Mr. Trump about some aspects of the investigation. These include reports that Trump dictated a false statement by his son Donald Jr. about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with three Kremlin-linked envoys.

The advisors also insist that Trump cannot be questioned about acts within his constitutional authority, such as the dismissal last May of FBI Director James Comey in a failed attempt to halt the inquiry.

One of the few dissenters is Ty Cobb, hired last July to deal with the investigation. However, it is Dowd who has been discussing the matter with Mueller’s office since December.

House Committee Votes to Release Democrat Response to Nunes Memo

The House Intelligence Committee votes unanimously to release a Democrat rebuttal to the Nunes Memo, the Trump-backed effort to discredit the FBI and end the Trump-Russia investigation.

Donald Trump now has five days to decide whether to block release of the rebuttal.

Last Friday the White House allowed the dissemination of the 3 1/2-page memo written by Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee — although he was forced to recuse him formally from Trump-Russia hearings — and a member of the Trump transition team in late 2016.

The Democrats and many analysts argue that the memo is seriously flawed in its assertions and is a political attempt to end the Russia inquiry before it reaches Trump.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, said, “We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies.”

One option for Trump to avoid the dilemma of allowing or blocking release of the rebuttal may be to insist on redactions, allegedly on grounds of national security — despite having released the Nunes Memo in full last week.

Schiff said, “We want to make sure that the White House does not redact our memo for political purposes. There is a rising sense of panic, clearly, within the White House and as well on the Hill.”

Trump continued to promote the memo, despite its shaky claims to accurate information, in a speech on Monday night in Ohio. Going off-script, he said:

Oh, but did we catch them in the act or what? You know what I’m talking about. Oh, did we catch them in the act. They are very embarrassed. They never thought they were going to get caught. We caught them. Hey, we caught them. It’s so much fun — we’re like the great sleuth.

Earlier in the day, he attacked not only Schiff but also former directors of the FBI and US intelligence agencies, part of his ongoing campaign to disrupt the Russia inquiry:

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