Ex-Federal Prosecutor Explains Why Rudy Giuliani's Demands on Robert Mueller Are a Bluff

Giuliani has said he wants to control the subject matter of Mueller's questions if he interviews Trump. Elie Honig explains why that is a hollow demand.

As speculation continues about when Special Counsel Robert Mueller will finally get Trump and his lawyers to agree to a sit-down and interview over the Russia investigation, former prosecutor, New York City mayor and Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani is submitting conditions to Mueller.

Specifically, Giuliani wants Mueller to allow Trump to respond to any question in writing, and limit the kinds of questions Mueller can ask only to discussions of "collusion," ostensibly to prevent him from setting up what he calls a "perjury trap" — a situation in which Mueller gets Trump to make a false statement under oath and then investigates that act in and of itself.

But according to former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, writing for The Daily Beast, Giuliani is in no position to make these kinds of demands, and he knows it.

"At times, the prosecutor will agree to certain narrow limitations, but nothing remotely resembling the extraordinary conditions Giuliani apparently has proposed to Mueller," writes Honig. "I've done hundreds of subject interviews as a federal prosecutor, and never once submitted a single written question. That’s because it is essential to the prosecutor to get a direct, in-person read on the subject. There is no substitute for sitting in the same room as a subject and gauging his responses, body language and demeanor as the questioning progresses. Any written responses to Mueller’s questions would be heavily lawyered, likely to the point of complete uselessness."

As for the demand to limit questions to things that will not make Trump perjure himself, Honig was blunt:


Here's a little free legal advice to Giuliani and the president: the best way to avoid a perjury trap is to not commit perjury. Many apt comparisons have been made by others: Giuliani's argument is like calling a bank a "bank robbery trap," or a DUI checkpoint is a "DUI trap." Indeed, it is unsettling to see the president of the United States take any position other than "Ask me whatever you want and I’ll answer because I want the truth to come out"—never mind a position of "I can't possibly answer questions from you because that would cause me to commit perjury."


Honig went on to say Giuliani "surely knows based on his own experience as a federal prosecutor" that Mueller would never agree to these terms. Furthermore, if no agreement is reached, Mueller could just subpoena all the information he wants, and even a Supreme Court with Brett Kavanaugh would be unlikely to go against decades of precedent that the president is obligated to comply. In all likelihood, says Honig, Giuliani is only making these demands as a ploy for public support, not out of any real expectation Mueller will accept them.

The reality is that for all of the Trump team's bluster, the Russia investigation will continue apace, and it is Mueller's terms, not Giuliani's, that will end up holding sway.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.