Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah criticized President Donald Trump and his lead attorney Rudy Giuliani for the president’s written answers to a series of questions posed by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the wide-ranging Russiagate investigation into electoral interference and corruption.
During a Saturday appearance on MSNBC, the Haub Law Professor at Pace Law School and longtime U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York offered her analysis on the apparent nature of ongoing backroom discussions between Giuliani and Mueller’s army of attorneys regarding the presidential questioning conundrum. She said:
We’re hearing this–remember–not from Mueller and his people, but from Trump and Giuliani… We know Mueller’s team doesn’t leak, so this is put out by someone on Trump’s side or team–whatever you want to call it–with some agenda. I don’t know exactly what that agenda is.
Rocah continued, noting that the written interview questions only appear to deal with the alleged Russian conspiracy aspect of Mueller’s investigation–and not the obstruction of justice angle.
“It could be that they’re still having a dialogue,” Rocah said. “It could be that they have sort of split these [investigations] into two parts. They being the Mueller team–who really has the sort of final say on this. Meaning: ‘On obstruction, we’re still going to ask for you to come in for a live interview, and may take that to a subpoena fight if you refuse. But on collusion, we’re willing to accept these written answers.'”
Rocah, who is the distinguished criminal justice fellow at Pace Law School, also offered her perspective on why some written answers would likely be acceptable to the special counsel’s office. She said:
[On] collusion, they don’t really need Trump to come in for an interview for that. That is going to be a case…based on documents, emails, electronic intercepts, other witnesses, insiders. So much other evidence. You don’t need Trump to explain that to them–or give his false denials, frankly. But he wants the opportunity and I think Mueller wants to give him an opportunity so [Trump] can’t say, ‘Well, I didn’t get to explain myself.’ So, doing it in written form is a way to do that…without dragging it out too much longer [and] without too much consequence.
The former federal prosecutor also rubbished the importance of Trump’s written answers to Mueller’s investigation.
“I have never done a written interview, I don’t know any prosecutor that ever has or ever would want to,” she said, “I think this just is a compromise, I think if he really needed the interview–the information from Trump on the collusion piece–he would either make him come in for an interview by subpoena and fight over a subpoena if he has to. I think he’s just not wasting his time with that.”
Rocah finished up by reiterating that Mueller was likely allowing Trump an opportunity to provide written answers as part of a strategy to anticipate eventual criticism. She noted:
There’s some debate about whether written answers by his lawyers–it’s not even by Trump–there is some debate as to whether it’s completely worthless or just a little bit worthless…It gives some baseline…there’s so many caveats. He can distance himself because his lawyers wrote it. It’s going to be so lawyered that there’s going to be very little to box him in. That’s why I say there’s some debate. I think there’s some value in it. But it’s really a compromise….so he can’t complain he didn’t have that opportunity.
[image via screengrab/MSNBC]