Giuliani: I mean the reality is, we are not going to sit him down if this is a trap for perjury, and until … we’re convinced of that, and if they don’t show us these documents, well we’re just going to have to say no.
Interviewer: So it sounds like a Trump-Mueller interview may not happen, at least according to the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Or will it?
Giuliani: It could happen. He wants to do it. So far, since I’ve been in this, all I see are obstacles that they’re putting in the way.
Interviewer: So joining us now, Gary Gerstenfield, federal white-collar defense attorney and trial attorney. Thank you for being here, Gary.
Interviewer: I want to start with this: how could a sit-down interview with Special Counsel Mueller be a perjury trap for the president?
Gerstenfield: Oh, very, very simple. You have to remember a couple of things — first of all, it’s easier herding pussycats than it is trying to control what president trump is going to say. I mean that’s a fair statement that almost everybody would agree with, and so you have to understand what a material misrepresentation is.
Gerstenfield: So, any time that you make a statement to a police officer, or to a federal agent, you’re making a difference. To a police officer, that’s not a crime, but to a federal agent it is, and a material misrepresentation could be anything that is different than what the federal agents know to be an accurate piece of information. So if Donald Trump starts to talk, and says something that goes off the charts from what he was expected to say, that information can be used against him, for calling it basically lying to a federal agent.
Interviewer: Mr Giuliani is saying that the president wants to clear his name with Mr Mueller, so how much does the will of the president weigh in, in this scenario?
Gerstenfield: Well I think that’s actually true. I think Donald Trump is biting at the bit to get in front of Mueller, and to say what he wants to say, which is there’s no collusion, and that he did not conspire with the Russians to try and affect the 2016 campaign. As a matter of fact, the election … in his mind, he’s been thwarted by the fact that there’s been these accusations that there’s been some sort of an explanation as to why he won, over Hillary Clinton. So he wants to get in front of the press, and he wants to get in front of Attorney Mueller, and he wants to get in front of anybody, and tell his side of the story.
Gerstenfield: The problem is, that’s it’s the little things that are gotchas, which is what his lawyers are very much afraid of.
Interviewer: But if the president just keeps to the facts, and the truth, then there will be no gotchas.
Gerstenfield: Well the gotchas would be things like, for example, Paul Manafort. When did he know that Paul Manafort was a problem?
Gerstenfield: For example, the biggest thing, of course, is General Flynn. When he had the, now infamous, meeting with fired FBI Director Comey, he basically tried to get Comey to lay off, and the question is, what did he know, when did he know, and what would he say when asked about that in front of federal investigators, who already have a view of the information that they believe is accurate?
Interviewer: So if the president does, or does not, sit down with Mr Mueller, ho does that impact Mueller’s investigation, either way?
Gerstenfield: Well probably in terms of determining whether or not there was actual collusion, probably not. The end of an investigation typically is when you bring in the big guys, so Donald Trump coming in and actually speaking is really the last part of the investigation. Now here’s the big challenge that he has. There are two options as far as giving statements to federal investigators. One is to sit down and to have a conversation like you and I, where you’re asking questions, I’m just giving answers. And the other one is what we call written questions, and written answers.
Gerstenfield: For example, Ronald Regan, with the Iran Contra scandal, he gave written answers after a big contested issue, because they actually wanted to come in and testify, and that wasn’t going to happen, so Ronald Regan gave written answers, in contrast with Bill Clinton; he gave … in fact he spoke to a grand jury as well as to a special counsel, so that’s the difference.
Gerstenfield: Bill Clinton on one end, Ronald Regan on the other. And Donald Trump would like to be more like Ronald Regan.
Interviewer: Well, in the case of President Trump, which would give a better public impression for the president? If he were to actually sit down face-to-face, and speak with Mr Mueller, or if he were to submit written answers?
Gerstenfield: Short-term, or long-term? Short-term, the answer is, getting out there in front and speaking the way he does. Like his rallies, where he gets out there and he talks, and he has these great moments, and connects with people, so in the short term, that. In the long term, the problem is the gotchas. So, in terms of what Giuliani wants, if in fact there is ever going to be a time where he sits down with the Mueller folks, it’s actually going to be written questions, written answers. Not as dramatic; not as beautiful; but long-term-wise, probably a lot more sustaining for his presidency.
Interviewer: Gary Gerstenfield, we have to leave it there. Thank you.