Former prosecutor explains why Mueller likely didn’t subpoena Trump
Preet Bharara, the former US attorney from the Southern District of New York, said Thursday special counsel Robert Mueller likely didn’t subpoena President Donald Trump for in-person testimony in order to end his probe well before the 2020 election.
“(Mueller) clearly thought that he wanted to end his investigation in a reasonable period of time, you know, well before the election,” Bharara told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Bharara said it was “not a terrible decision,” by Mueller to rely on written answers from Trump and not to seek an in-person interview, given the “time constraints and also legal constraints, that you don’t want to drag this out for another year or two years.”
“Once you go down the path of seeking to compel a President of the United States to come testify in a grand jury, then you have to finish that process,” Bharara said.
“And so even if everything else was done and the last thing left was an interview with the President,” he continued, “and you had that pending litigation going on in court, probably going all the way up to the Supreme Court, we would not have a Mueller report and it probably would’ve taken us to the election.”
As part of Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia, Trump submitted written answers to a list of “Russia-related” questions in November 2018. Mueller considered Trump’s responses “inadequate” and sought an interview with Trump but ultimately decided not to issue a subpoena for the interview.
According to a redacted version of the report released by the Justice Department on Thursday, the special counsel believed it had the authority to subpoena Trump, but decided against doing so because it would delay the investigation. Prosecutors also believed they already had a substantial amount of evidence.
Bharara said Mueller says in the report, “People bring obstruction cases without speaking to the target in part because sometimes that target can assert the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, but also (the special counsel) said, and I thought this was very telling and maybe a little bit overlooked, we thought we had enough of a sense of what was going on.”
“That to me doesn’t sound like they were not sure which way the wind should blow,” Bharara said, “but that they thought they had enough.”