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Donald Trump Shouldn’t Talk to the Feds. And Neither Should You.

When the feds interview a subject or target, their goal is not fact-finding or "clearing a few things up." Their goal is the hunt.

Robert S. Mueller, IIIRon Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/NewscomThe media have become obsessed with a hypothetical conversation—one that might, or might not, take place between the president of the United States and a special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice. It's a will-they-or-won't-they worthy of a rom-com, with the unusual twist that there is genuine uncertainty about the result. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is implacable and President Donald Trump is unpredictable. Everyone has an opinion, and they're being sprayed across cable news and the editorial pages.

I gave up early on predicting what this administration will do. But I say this with complete confidence, based on my 23 years in federal criminal practice: There is absolutely no good reason for Trump to talk to Robert Mueller and his investigators voluntarily.

To understand why, you have to understand the goal of a conversation like the one Mueller proposes.

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.

Consider George Papadopoulos. The special counsel secured his guilty plea not for improper contact with the Russians but for lying about that contact to the FBI. Consider Michael Flynn. He too pled guilty not to unlawful contact with Russians but to lying to the FBI about that contact. Consider Scooter Libby, or Martha Stewart, or Dennis Hastert, or James Cartwright, all taken down by the feds not for their alleged original misconduct but for lying about it. Even when catching someone in a lie isn't enough to force them to plead guilty, it can add charges to a case. Consider Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, charged not just with substantive crimes but with lying to the FBI about them.

The feds love this tactic because it's so effective with sophisticated, affluent, powerful people. Such people can afford teams of lawyers, yes. But being sophisticated, affluent, and powerful often means being arrogant and overconfident too. "Masters of the Universe" believe they can talk their way out of anything, just as they have talked their way to their lofty status. This is the pride that goeth before the fall, and it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what's happening in one of these interviews.

When special counsels or FBI agents ask questions of one of these powerful people, they are not fact-finding. They've already done their homework. They've already gathered facts—almost certainly many more facts than the interviewee knows. They are asking questions the answers to which they can already prove, hoping that the interviewee will tell a provable lie, and thus commit a crime, or at least lock themselves into a feckless story that ties their hands later. The law that makes it a crime to lie to federal investigators does not require the lie to fool the investigators for a nanosecond. A lie must be "material" to be criminal, but that only means that the lie is the kind of statement that could conceivably influence the government, not one that actually did. The FBI can roll up with irrefutable proof of something, ask the target a question hoping for a lie, collect the lie they wanted, and reap a felony conviction.

Some people say, "Well, there's an easy solution—just tell the truth." Casual acquaintance with President Trump suggests that's not an easy solution to him. I'm not saying that he constantly lies consciously and deliberately, but he certainly says untrue things constantly and gratuitously, in the way that characters on Deadwood swear. There's little reason to think he can learn to change for an interview, particularly one with a nemesis who infuriates him.

Anyway, even an honest, circumspect person faces grave peril in such an interview. FBI agents and prosecutors are adept at putting interviewees ill at ease. The pressure is immense. Human memory is fallible, and the interrogators are not disposed to view misremembered statements as accidents. You don't know the significance of everything they are asking you, and most people simply cannot sustain the sort of focus necessary to respond to complicated questions precisely and accurately for a sustained period of time. "Just tell the truth," applied to a complicated interview, assumes that the witness is extraordinarily disciplined and that questioners have an open mind and will act fairly and in good faith. Those assumptions are not warranted.

Just as there are abyssal downsides for a target or subject to submit to a government interview, there are very rarely upsides. If you are the subject or target of a federal investigation, you're not going to talk them out of it. They have the receipts already. Nothing you say, in and of itself, will end the investigation. You cannot "just clear a few things up." You cannot impress them with your honesty. If they decide they don't have a case, they will decide this based on other evidence—other witnesses, documents, and so forth—and not on your denials. Moreover, there's nothing you can say in an interview that your attorney can't convey to investigators informally. If some key fact will exonerate you, your attorneys can tell them without exposing you to charges.

Trump's case, of course, is somewhat different. Many legal scholars think that he cannot be indicted for false statements under Section 1001, or obstruction of justice, or perjury, unless and until he is impeached—at least not under this special counsel. But he has no good reason to hand Mueller an opportunity to build a lie-based case for impeachment, nor a lie-based indictment in the event he's impeached.

If the president refuses to submit to a voluntary interview, Special Counsel Mueller could conceivably subpoena him to testify before the grand jury. That would require Mueller to tip his hand about the president's precise status: Department of Justice regulations require prosecutors to warn targets or subjects of their Fifth Amendment rights when subpoenaing them before a grand jury, and to advise targets of their status as targets. Trump might defy such a subpoena, and Mueller might seek to enforce it in court. The Supreme Court's decision in Clinton v. Jones suggests that the president is not immune from such subpoenas, even if there may be ambiguity about the exact way they can be enforced and the precise privileges the president might assert. This would be a spectacle and a constitutional crisis. But so would a clamor for an impeachment proceeding premised on lies to the FBI or perjury under oath. Submitting voluntarily to an interview with the special counsel does not prevent the spectacle or crisis; it merely hastens it and changes its nature from a struggle over presidential privilege and immunity to a struggle over the consequences of lying.

That bring us to one final reason to cooperate often offered: politics. I am not a politician, but I don't need to be one to dispense with the notion that talking to Mueller is a political necessity. Donald Trump is not a man of mystery. He is exactly what it says on the package. He has spent his first year as president being very much himself. The people who like that have continued to like it, the people who hate it have continued to hate it, and most Republicans in the House and Senate have backed him, albeit with occasional timid throat-clearing. If he refuses to submit to an interview with Robert Mueller, under oath or not, absolutely nothing in the last year suggests that he will face debilitating political consequences. The president will crow that he has refused to cooperate with a biased and meritless investigation calculated to harass him, and he will do so with political impunity. The proverbial camel is in its cold grave; this additional straw upon its back cannot trouble it.

I submit this is not a close call. 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. It offers him nothing but risk, even if it offers the rest of us entertainment or schadenfreude.

Photo Credit: Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

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  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    A voluntary interview creates risk but offers the opportunity to be accompanied by a lawyer, perhaps with some agreement on terms and conditions.

    A subpoena (if enforced) would arrange for a man of the relevant nature and background to enter the room for questioning alone, with no prosecutorial holds barred.

    A simple call?

  • Thrackmoor||

    Yes, it's very simple. Do not talk to the FBI, the police or the local dog catcher without your lawyer. The FBIs and the rest aren't interested in hearing your side except where you may incriminate yourself.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "Yes, it's very simple."

    They get paid according to their "body count"... The more people that they punish, and the worse the punishment, the fatter their paychecks, and the faster their job advancement. Innocent or not, true proportionate justice or not, that? "Machs nix!"

  • buybuydandavis||

    Don't talk to Police
    https://youtu.be/d-7o9xYp7eE

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If that's the Prof. Duane presentation, I believe it to be first-rate.

    Pres. Trump does not appear to confront the standard 'don't talk with police' situation, however. He seems destined to receive a grand jury subpoena if he declines a lawyer-accompanied interview, and a presidency may be on the line.

    Plus, he is an undisciplined, vainglorious blowhard who already appears to be, at minimum, the guiltiest-looking innocent person in the world.

    This could be a 'no good choice' situation.

  • Tionico||

    the one defense he MUST quickly exercise against such dirty pool is to get Sessions off his thick end and have him issue subpoenae and/or warrants for the likelu parties now revealed to be involved in high treason.... the clear attempt to prevent the expressed will of the People in our selection of our Chief Executive Officer, and then to mount a soft but effective coup d'etat to remove from office a duly elected and seated Chief Executive. And MUELLER is complicit in this whole schemozzle, and has ben from the beginning. HE is heavily implicated in the Uranium One scandal, and likly involved, complicit, or knowledgeable in the related money laundering and pay for play bribery. And HE is the one wanting to talk to The Donald>? DONALD should have his guys talking to Mueller..... with live witnesses and multiple video recorders running, some transmitting to a secured remote recording dock

  • Sevo||

    "high treason."
    You'd have more cred if you knew what words meant.

  • Bill||

    Both of your comments seem to Imply that you think he won't have a lawyer for a grand jury. I would think he can have a lawyer present for that.

  • Alcibiades||

    First rate legal advice, and it's free!

  • SQRLSY One||

    One cannot be forced to testify against oneself... If this is violated, we are looking at torture, or the clear threat of it!

    "I ain't sayin' shit fer nobody!" Unless you give me a written promise of immunity, and my lawyer double-checks it... Till then... Kiss my ever-lovin' ass!

    If ye get yerself KILLED fer that... At least, hopefully, some us may get word of it, and we will know that it is time for the REVOLUTION, baby!!!

  • FlameCCT||

    Wrong again RAK. If one receives a subpoena then one can bring in one's lawyer.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Are the rules governing grand jury operations different for a president, or for someone who thinks he is really important, or for someone with truly bad hair?

  • Tionico||

    the rules governing ALL subpoenae, warrants, etc, are the same no matter the "invited guest's: name, rank, identity, office, function.... being President does not impose dfferent requirements or standards. East Podunk's dog catcher is treated in precisely the same manner as a sitting President. Or even this Mueller scoundrel.

  • Tionico||

    anyone ALWAYS has the right to have their own counsel present, and active in his role of "counsellor". Also, to contest out of order questions. And, in order to be so examined, the subpoena MUST be issued on sworn testimony of a credible witness, under oath, specifying the type and content of information to be sought, from whom, and the basis for "knowledge and belief" the examinee in fact has something to say on the specific matter.

    The days of "general warrants" left North America along with General LaFayette as he embarked his defeated troops and sailed back to Merrie Auld after putting feather and ink to parchment at Yorktown.

  • pittspbm||

    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't believe that witnesses subpoenaed to be interrogated by a grand jury have any right to counsel in front of a grand jury when they are in the witness box. I could be wrong on that point, but that's what I've heard.

    On your other point, you might want to read up on our Revolutionary War. The Marquis de Lafayette was an American ally, as was Comte de Rochambeau, who helped defeat the British General Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown. It was Cornwallis who surrendered.

    Here's the wiki link about Yorktown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Yorktown. The defeated British troops went back to Merrie Auld England. Just sayin' .....

  • Bill||

    But the lawyer is in the room and can nod or shake his head. Right?

  • Tom Smith the Lesser||

    Yes.

    Never. Talk. to. Law. Enforcement.

    Refusal to interview is 5th Amendment right. Use it.

    Refusal to testify with a subpoena is 5th Amendment right. Use it.

    Got it? Good.

  • Rich||

    "Just tell the truth," applied to a complicated interview, assumes that the witness is extraordinarily disciplined and that questioners have an open mind and will act fairly and in good faith. Those assumptions are not warranted.

    "One more question, Mr. President. If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can't pick it up?"

  • Libertymike||

    The President's response:

    Perhaps you should ask Dwayne Johnson.

  • Jim Harr||

    This is suppose to be an example of a difficult, or even impossible question to answer. It is not. It is based upon a misunderstanding of the doctrine of omnipotence in Scripture and Christian theology. Omnipotence does not mean that God can do absolutely anything. For instance, God cannot lie. He cannot deny Himself. He cannot be something other than what He is. And, in regard to making rocks, He cannot act in a way that is contrary to His character and person. Making a rock too big to lift is irrational. God is not irrational. Therefore, no. He can't, wouldn't, and apparently doesn't want to.
    Now, before I get inundated with comments about spaghetti monsters, whether one believes in the God of Scripture or not has nothing to do with what I'm saying. I'm simply correcting a misunderstanding of what scripture teaches and what Christians believe.

  • Widsith||

    C.S. Lewis wrote the best answer to the question that I've ever found in his book, The Problem of Pain. He pointed out that the question itself is meaningless because it involves a logical contradiction. Here's how he explained it:

    "His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say, 'God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,' you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, 'God can.' It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God."

  • I can't even||

    Trump has been in and out of civil court many times in his business career. I'll guess he has very good lawyers and will follow their advice - regardless of what he says on Twitter.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Trump's record in civil court is not that good, and his ego is even larger than his own estimation of his intelligence.

  • santamonica811||

    I don't know. He's been sued countless times, and still seems to emerge reasonably well-off. He even managed to defraud hundreds of students at Trump U and only have to pay $25,000,000 in settlement.

    On the other hand, if by "not that good" you were talking about the scores of lies he habitually tells under oath in these depositions; then, of course, you're 100% correct.

  • Sevo||

    "And the bankruptcies"

    Mike, if you ever accomplish enough to have two nickles to rub together, you might overcome your love of politics of envy.
    But I doubt that will happen.

  • Sevo||

    "On the other hand, if by "not that good" you were talking about the scores of lies he habitually tells under oath in these depositions; then, of course, you're 100% correct."

    Will you donate $0.25 to help this idiot overcome TDS, or will you turn the page?
    Cite missing, idiot.

  • santamonica811||

    Sevo,
    Typically, people do not put cites in posts. But since you asked...

    http://www.newsweek.com /mr-speaker-stop-trump-let- gop-lose-election-489797
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com /what-trumps-long-record-of-depositions -means-for-the-mueller-probe /article/2648015
    https://www.washingtonpost.com /graphics/politics/2016 -election/trump-lies/

    If you Google "Trump lying in deposition" you'll get an endless list of links. These articles are not people saying, "I feel like Trump lies in depositions." Instead, you get specific example after example of Trump, well, lying. Over-and-over. On a wide variety of questions.

    Google is your friend. Idiot.

    [p.s. Due to the crappy commenting system here, we are not allowed to use any word longer than 50 characters. Which includes pretty much all internet links. So, I added several spaces--at different points--for each link. Obviously, delete those added spaces to get the link to work when you cut-and-paste.]

  • Naaman Brown||

    This commenting system allows use of html tags for links of any length.
    Some commenting systems don't.

  • jonmarcus||

    Ken's previous discourses on talking to the feds have been going through my mind ever since Trump tweeted about it. I've been expecting this column, and it does not disappoint.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Anybody who does what his lawyers tell him is a weak little girl. Trump should absolutely talk to the feds. He's got nothing to hide. Just go in and answer every question they ask, and Trump will own the feds like he owns the media.

  • Tionico||

    That's one of the slickest sarcasm fonts I've ever read. Nice work, there.....

  • Jima||

    Is there anything other than political embarrassment that could prevent him from just taking the Fifth endlessly? What's your name? I respectfully decline to answer and choose to exercise my Fifth Amendment rights. Every question, same answer. Can anyone be compelled to answer otherwise? If not, I'd plead the Fifth if they asked me what color the sky was. Fuck 'em. If that is a legal response, then that's the one they get. The politics of it might suck for him, but the Special Prosecutor gets nothing either. Right?

  • fafalone||

    Well there's the fact that he's so shockingly easy to manipulate he'd never be able to keep that up.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The record (read one of the deposition transcripts) indicates Pres. Trump would exhibit the self-discipline and self-awareness of a typical nine-year-old. Does anyone genuinely believe this guy would perform well In a setting populated by prepared, smart, professional prosecutors? No competent, informed lawyer would prefer to send this client into that room alone.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Actually, the record indicates that he's shockingly good at manipulating. Letting people think he's a fool is just a technique.

    Seriously, how stupid do you have to be, to think that a guy who got elected President on his first attempt to run for office, over the opposition of BOTH major parties, is some kind of gullible fool? Is it rational to believe that?

  • Myshkin78||

    The real question is how many times must he prove that he's a fool before you'll believe it.

  • Sevo||

    "The real question is how many times must he prove that he's a fool before you'll believe it."
    You lost, loser.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Hunter Thompson described this one aptly: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

    Trump succeeded by persuading poorly educated, backward, superstitious, gullible, bigoted yahoos that he could deliver their stale dreams (or, at least, delay society's progress against right-wing preferences).

    Trump inherited his life. His personal life is habitually in a shambles. He is comically undisciplined. His White House is a small-town carnival troupe (criminals, snitches, wife-beaters, family members, flame-outs, ring card girls). He voluntarily presents the appearance of a clown.

    His inherited money won't help him in that grand jury room. His lawyers won't be there to try to help him (they generally are permitted to wait in the hallway). His army of downscale goobers won't be able to help him. His character won't help him. His legion of amateurish sycophants won't help him. The facts seem unlikely to be helpful. His gold toilet, 'I'm not obese' certificate, and military parade . . . none of it can help him in that grand jury room.

    The prosecutors probably will permit him to take an armful of diet Cokes into that room, though. So he'd have that going for him. Which is nice.

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    There is zero possibility that Trump testifies before a grand jury.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Why?

    He'll fire Mueller, and that will end it?

    He'll confess and resign?

    The court system will decline to enforce a subpoena?

    He'll have a fast-food-and-obesity induced heart attack, found clutching a photo of Hope Hicks?

    He'll participate in an informal interview with prosecutors?

    Mueller will decide Trump's team is too tough to tangle with, and surrender?

    El Presidente Maximos Machimos Duterte will, as a favor to his soul mate, take care of this "his way?"

    Thank you.

  • Tionico||

    what kind of "reverend" are you, anyway? This is a serious question, expecting an accurate and honest answer.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Congregation Of Exalted Reason.

    Thank you for asking.

  • tom covenant||

    Isn't it amazing that the smartest woman on the planet, the most qualified person to ever run for office, got beat...

  • Dariush||

    And she still lost you stupid old asshole.

  • Tionico||

    remove the tens of thousands of votes cast by illegal foreign invaders, and she'd have lost the popular by a landslide, rather than eking out a statistically insigificant minor majority.

    Have that same election today, and she'd probably have to move to Cuba or Venezuela to be able to hold her head up in public.

  • Ride 'Em||

    Not a Trump supporter or voter. Then you have a state like New Hampshire, where people who registered to vote with an out of state driver's license and never subsequently established a New Hampshire address did affect the election of not only the president but also the senator.

  • KevinP||

    The same thing happened in Minnesota:

    Washington Post: Could non-citizens decide the November election?


    Quote:
    How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

    Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform in the 111th Congress.

    Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama's 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina's adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    If you are referring to students, you are describing a common circumstance.

  • KevinP||

    Tens of thousands is certainly an incorrect figure.

    Clinton received 800,000 votes from noncitizens, study finds


    Quote:
    Hillary Clinton garnered more than 800,000 votes from noncitizens on Nov. 8, an approximation far short of President Trump's estimate of up to 5 million illegal voters but supportive of his charges of fraud.
    ...
    Based on national polling by a consortium of universities, a report by Mr. Richman said 6.4 percent of the estimated 20 million adult noncitizens in the U.S. voted in November. He extrapolated that that percentage would have added 834,381 net votes for Mrs. Clinton, who received about 2.8 million more votes than Mr. Trump... the finding is significant because it means noncitizens may have helped Mrs. Clinton carry a state or finish better than she otherwise would have.
  • Sevo||

    "She won the popular vote"
    When you lose at poker, you fucking idiot, do you claim you should have won because you drew the most cards?

  • Tionico||

    quote:
    "Trump succeeded by persuading poorly educated, backward, superstitious, gullible, bigoted yahoos that he could deliver their stale dreams (or, at least, delay society's progress against right-wing preferences)."

    I am almost the polar opposite in every particular you mention here, and did not need Trump to "persuade" me to give him MY vote. And, one year after he took office, I am even more certain my vote was placed correctly.

    Don't know what planet you call home. But it seems unlikely the third one out from the sun is it.

  • KevinP||

    "psychotic liar" - you must be one of the tolerant and inclusive crowd, LOL.

  • Sevo||

    "But if numbers mattered, the world would be ruled by ants"

    And yet, just up-thread, you were telling us how the hag won the popular vote.
    Fucking idiot...

  • Cranedoc||

    Or just repeating Hillary Clinton's mantra: "I can not recall..."

  • Tom Smith the Lesser||

    He knows not political embarrassment, so even that is not a barrier to him refusing.

  • Tom Smith the Lesser||

    You do not "plead the Fifth." You do not plead. You assert your RIGHTS. And you do so proudly.

  • PG23COLO||

    It isn't just the President who should not talk to federal investigators. No one should, ever. Any investigator is looking for a scalp to take. And the stupid laws allow them to lie their heads off to someone they are interviewing, with impunity, then charge the interviewee with lying to them.

    If a federal investigator takes a dislike to you, they can usually find a felony or two or three to charge you with. No matter who you are, no matter how innocent you think you are. Crimes are in the eye of the cop and the prosecutor. Talk to them at your peril.

  • Tionico||

    I would tell them "you will need to develop that information on your own. If you have enough information to indict me, this interview is pointless. If you do not, I decline to provide for you the work product for which you are paid to develop. If you wish to persue this matter with me directly, please provide my counsel with written interrogatories for discovery. Good day, sirs. ".

  • Longtobefree||

    Actually, interviewing Trump would be different.
    He himself is a federal law enforcement officer, the top one.
    So the FBI could not lie to him without breaking the law - - - -

  • I can't even||

    Where was lying condoned in the article? Are you the rube who would walk into the FBI interview alone?

  • Microaggressor||

    Michael Hihn is accidental satire.

  • Sevo||

    The stupidity is just icing on the cake.

  • Raoul Duke||

    It would be fun to see the "honest one" he finds.

  • Raoul Duke||

    God, I hope not. As your attorney, I'd advise you not to retain a non-attorney as your legal counsel.

  • Raoul Duke||

    Maybe if you weren't engaged in 134 simultaneous arguments, your reasoning would be slightly easier to follow.

    In any case it seems you're not interested in hiring me as your lawyer, so that's good.

  • Tamfang||

    If lying was not condoned in the article, what the annotated heck did you mean by calling Ken dishonest?

  • dantheserene||

    Then as the saying goes, you have nothing to fear. Let us know how that works out.

  • Tom Smith the Lesser||

    You are an arrogant idiot. With each of your posts, you demonstrate that.

  • SimonD||

    everyone has something to hide.

  • Tionico||

    Having reviewed the surveillance video taken at Vinnie's Pizza Parlour on Tuesday, 27th March 1997, and KNOWING FULL WELL precisely what yu had for lunch that day. FBI Agent Guido gets down in your face and asks you "where did you have lunch on 27th March 1997, with whom, and what did you personally have? And what were the four topics of discussion you had with the others present at that time?".

    anything you say can, AND WILL, be used against you to convict in a court of law. NOTHING you say can be used to exonerate or acquit you.

    You don't recall... so Guido provides a hint: you wwere at a pizza joint that afternoon..... now, answer my questions.

    I still don't recall...... it appears you already have that information. I have nothing to add to what you already have.

    WHAT can they do? If you take an educated guess, and tell them I had a burrito, and was with two friends who I remember, but there may have been another one or two..... they now have you for perjury, wrapped up and tied tight, no escape hatch, no red button.

    Shut up and stay that way.

  • I can't even||

    That and he'll drop the cases before they get to trial because the defense lawyers would have an opportunity to further destroy FBI, DOJ, and his credibility during discovery.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Mueller is a huge shitbag. The guy is responsible for a lot of bad things going on the FBI going back even before Obama. He and his ilk need to be cleaned out of there.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Maybe the Trump team could send Rob Porter over to the FBI to clean up the . . . oh, wait . . .

    Carry on, clingers.

  • UVaGrad||

    There are already guilty pleas in two of them. I doubt he'll lose those.

  • FlameCCT||

    He'll either drop the charges or they'll be overturned on appeal.

  • UVaGrad||

    On what grounds would Flynn or Papadoupowhatever win on appeal? They're charged with lying to FBI investigators during interviews. Either they lied during those interviews or they didn't. Even if we assume that the Steele dossier's use in the FISA application can somehow create fruit of the poisonous tree issues (itself a gigantic leap, though I can see the argument), their lying to the FBI is an independent, conscious act that breaks the chain of causation required for the poisonous tree doctrine to apply. They aren't charged with nefarious Russian misdeeds that wouldn't have been uncovered without the Steele dossier. They're charged with knowingly telling lies to government agents.

  • Orv||

    At this point I think a court could throw away all the evidence from the FISA warrant and they'd still have enough evidence just from interviews with other people involved to go forward. Given all the precedent there is for using "parallel construction" to build a criminal case in situations where NSA intelligence is involved, I think it's naive to think that pulling at this one thread will unravel the entire sweater.

    There's also the inconvenient facts that the partisan nature of the Steele dossier was, in fact, revealed in footnotes, so the Nunes case is down to "they didn't use the right font." And the Steele dossier wasn't the only, or even the primary source for the warrant request. And the court repeatedly renewed the warrant, which requires showing additional evidence each time.

    Basically I expect Trump will use the Nunes memo to try to win in the court of public opinion, but won't cite it in actual court. Sean Hannity may think it's a slam dunk but actual judges are unlikely to be impressed.

  • DajjaI||

    At the risk of being banned again by Reason - I agree completely. The fact that they are going to Trump shows they got nuthin and are now on a fishing expedition. Trump has nothing to gain by talking to them.

    Popehat for President 2020 (unofficial) approves this message.

  • Tom Smith the Lesser||

    You've done it again. Proved my point.

  • crufus||

    The simple rule is that no one should talk to the cops, with or without a lawyer.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Yes, you have the right to remain silent. But do you, unlike Donkey, have the ability to remain silent?

  • jdmichels||

    Great column.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I've read Ken White's "Don't talk to the FBI" articles for some time. I came to the conclusion that if they wanted me in for an "interview", I would instead create a custom PGP key for this particular purpose and tell them to send me questions in email, signed by their own custom PGP key, and I would take my sweet time answering their questions, with a lawyer's assistance, and include their signed question in my signed response.

    I would answer in hundreds, maybe thousands, of words for every single answer, pointing out every little doubt in my mind of exactly what they might have meant, every little quibble, every little possible misunderstanding and confusing wording and phrasing. The goal would be to put it on record exactly how little I understand what they really meant, and to eliminate any possibility of them twisting my answers.

    It would take days, maybe weeks, for every single answer.

    And I would not talk to them orally at all. My response to every oral question would be to restate, in writing, under what conditions I would correspond with them. There was a Supreme Court case recently where the court said that absent an explicit declaration of silence, the cops did not have to stop pressuring you for an answer.

    They wouldn't like it. They might get a judge to hold me in contempt. I don't care. I can rely only on myself, and there is no way I will ever think of them as anything but corrupt liars.

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    Here's a better idea. Just shut the hell up and not answer at all.

    You are absolutely the worst kind of client — one who thinks he's clever. If Floyd Mayweather challenged you to 12 rounds, and if you lose, you do 10 years in jail, and if you win, you get nothing, would you climb in the ring? Hell no! But if an experienced prosecutor invites you into his realm, with the awesome power of the government behind him, you want to try and be cute? Stupid on steroids.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Did you see "with a lawyer's assistance"?

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    Yes, and no competent lawyer would assist you in such an asinine and problematic exercise.

  • Tom Smith the Lesser||

    Badabing!

    Scarecrow's lawyer has an idiot for a client.

  • dantheserene||

    I watched a youtube video with a lawyer who would simply arrange for the FBI to meet his client in his office. He'd then pull out a tape recorder, the FBI would insist that their interviews cannot be recorded (which is as big a crock as section 1001) and when they refused to proceed thank them for their time and send them on their way.

  • Toots shor||

    Another opportunity for Trump to do something he is very good at. Telling someone to go fuck themselves.

  • FlameCCT||

    Now that would be funny.

    Or the response from the POTUS to the 1st question: You're Fired!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    How is a president to fire the state prosecutors who are riding tandem on money laundering, tax evasion, perjury, and the like?

  • santamonica811||

    The only main reason for Trump to speak to Mueller voluntarily is political. If he does not do it, then it is inconceivable that Muller will not subpoena Trump to speak in front of the grand jury you discussed. So, Trump will still testify. The political component is that Trump will be seen by at least some as evasive. As 'acting guilty' by refusing. Especially true after he repeatedly stated publicly how much he wanted to do this interview. Now, Trump's base will not punish him for this change of heart. Heck; they'll probably reward him for the flip-flop. And the Democrats can't possibly detest Trump the president any more than they already do. But there is a risk of alienating that narrow group of Independents who grudgingly voted for Trump but would happily/unhappily vote for a Democrat.

    One huge risk in not doing the interview is access to counsel. In a grand jury proceeding, your lawyer is outside the room. Would Trump have the discipline to--after every single question--ask permission to leave the room and discuss the question with his attorney? Doubtful. Doing the interview would allow Trump's attorney(s) to be right next to him, listening to each question, able to object, jump in if Trump's lies get too obvious or numerous, etc.

  • Longtobefree||

    For you youngsters, it goes like this:
    "I have no recollection of those events as you have described them"

  • Longtobefree||

    "I have no recollection of those events as you have described them"

  • BigT||

    "I don't recall."

    Is they perfect answer for any question. Because they can never prove your memory. That's why we have the HilDog saying that on tape some 200+ times in the 90's.

  • FlameCCT||

    Although in her case it might be an accurate answer as well as proof of early onset Alzheimer.

  • BigT||

    HilDog's 'total recall' in the debates gives lie to the Alzheimer's idea.

  • BigT||

    Trump: "We need a parade, just like Rocket Man."

    As odd as that sounds, it might be just the spectacle we need.

  • Fucksake||

    Then consider that Ken White has no fucking clue about whether Papadopoulos and Flynn had other charges dropped in exchange for pleading to lying.

  • Fucksake||

    The public should be demanding that this loudmouth fuckface politician answer questions about his knowledge of the Russian menace or resign.

  • operagost||

    Just a high-level version of "never talk to the police?"

  • Artifex||

    Actually, since the Donald is technically head of the executive. This could be massively amusing.


    He allows the interview with his lawyer present and gives Muller the impression it is the typical FBI headhunting session. When Muller shows up, have your DOJ guy who is also present mirandize Muller right back. As he ask questions, return fire with questions about political matter within the FBI. Film and publish. Prosecute if Muller lies. Hilarity ensues.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    This appears to be how code writers, backoffice engineers, and third-shift desktop assistance technicians perform legal analysis.

  • Ride 'Em||

    Trump is the top Leo isn't he? Is it illegal to lie to him?

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Obviously for legal reasons Trump shouldn't agree to be interviewed. That may not be a politically viable option though unless Mueller is fully discredited.

  • Cranedoc||

    Answer a loaded question with a question! Or decline to answer. Or say you can't recall. Just never actually answer any question and you can wind down the clock.

  • Scott Thomas||

    Essentially telling "Any" truth in today's current social environment is counter productive and most certainly not the basis for greater success.

  • Joseph C. Moore (USN Ret.||

    Excellent advice. I would hope that the president is not foolish enough to think that truth and honesty will prevail. With the devious way of implicating the person being questioned because of an inadvertent reply or semantic miscalculation, he is almost certainly going to get scre***d by the leftist Mueller.

  • Henry Baker||

    NEVER EVER EVER TALK TO PIGS WITH GUNS AND BADGES -- federal, state, local or ANY of the scumbag fascist cartels pretending to be "law enforcement" agencies. They DO NOT have your better interests at heart.

    Don't be stupid enough to haul dope or other contraband around with you and if you're stopped on the road by one of those thugs with a gun and badge DO NOT allow the pig to search your vehicle.

    Be clean, make the bastard put you in jail, then demand millions in a lawsuit for false arrest.

  • ReasonJosh||

    Is everyone missing the obvious here... Perhaps there are sometimes when you should talk to the FBI. If you are being investigated for your use of email with classified info...and your initials are HRC... Talk at will with the FBI!

  • drisco304||

    As I recall Scooter Libby was convicted of saying "I don't remember" when the jury decided he did remember and lied about it. A Washington D.C. jury. So even if you tell the truth the prosecutor could just try to get you by claiming you lied, even if he has no "proof". I agree. Best not to say anything.

  • Tionico||

    We are ALL counselled to "zip it" when the uninvited roadside chat with the guy with the blue blinking lights is underway. Most of us know from memory the so-called Brady notification....

    you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you to convict in a court of law".. or very similar. What is the more complete underlying meaning is more accurately thus:

    yuo have the right to remain silent. ANYTHING you say can, and WILL be used against you in a court of law to convict you. NOTHING you say can be admitted as evidence to acquit you".

    So its all lose and no win.

    The excuse given for this is that what I tell the ossifer as my justification or excuse or exoneration or innocence will be considred "hearsay" by the court, thus inadmissible. Funy thing... the sick double standard does NOT consider what I say that can and will be used to convict as "hearsay"... though in BOTH cases the dirty copper hears it then repeats it under oath in court. WHY is one inadmissible, the other solid evidence?

    Mr. Trump needs to politely decline the invitation. FIRMLY decline if necessary. Then FLAT REFUSE if they persist.

    Mueller and his team of professional liars need to go. Probably to jail under arrest for treason and perjury.

  • Sevo||

    You did it again, you fucking idiot.
    Learn to link or get lost.

  • wnoise||

    It's in Trump's best interest not to talk. However, saying "Trump shouldn't talk" is a very restricted use of the word "should": it's in the nation's best interest for him to talk.

  • Sevo||

    "it's in the nation's best interest for him to talk."

    An assertion is not an argument.

  • pabloat8000||

    The "hunt" looks more and more like a witch hunt.

  • Deplorable Victor||

    You can't just clear things up unless you are Felonia Von Pantsuit.

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