Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly informed President Trump’s lawyers that the commander-in-chief is not a criminal target — although he is still under investigation.
Mueller said he still needs to interview Trump — to determine if the president had any corrupt intent to thwart the probe — and the special counsel plans to write a report about Trump’s potential obstruction of justice, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The mixed-message briefing from Mueller took place last month as the sprawling investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election moves forward, the paper said.
Mueller’s characterization of Trump’s status has reportedly sent the president’s closest advisers into two distinct camps.
Some of Trump’s team believe that it shows his chances of ever facing criminal charges are remote, at best.
Trump himself has continually said “no collusion” happened between Russia and his campaign.
But others in Trump’s inner circle still believe the president remains a potential target for indictment, based solely on continuing to be under Mueller’s magnifying glass.
Adding to that fear, Mueller has told Trump’s lawyers that he’s preparing a report about the president’s actions after taking office, which could amount to obstruction of justice for allegedly
trying to derail the Russia probe, the newspaper said.
Princeton University political-science Professor Keith Whittington, an impeachment expert, said that even if the president isn’t a criminal target, he could still end up in Congress’ cross hairs.
“The president’s personal risk is primarily on the impeachment front,” Whittington told the paper.
“Even if there are not things that lead to indictment, there may be matters that warrant an impeachment investigation and proceedings.”
Trump should have no belief he’s in the clear, the expert said, despite Mueller putting the president in the criminal clear — for now.
“If I were the president, I would be very reluctant to think I’m off the hook,” Whittington said.
“My sense of it is the president — given that information — ought to have pretty fair warning anything he’s saying in the deposition would be legally consequential. Depending on what he says, it could wind up changing how the special counsel is thinking about him.”
Two of Trump’s lawyers and a Mueller representative declined to comment Tuesday.
Even if Mueller determines there was no collusion, Trump’s own statements may play a part in the obstruction-of-justice probe.
In May of last year, Trump admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the bureau’s probe of “this Russia thing.”
Also, before he was fired, Comey took note of an awkward dinner where Trump allegedly demanded “loyalty” from him and asked that the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn be discontinued.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.” Trump allegedly said about his former top aide.
Flynn has since pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.