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Mueller rejects idea of allowing Trump to answer questions in writing

In the Russia scandal, Donald Trump wants a take-home exam. Robert Mueller isn't going for that.
Image: Senate Judiciary Committee
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. ...

It's not exactly a secret that Donald Trump's lawyers are worried that if he sat down with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president might lie. And since lying to investigators would be a criminal act, Trump's lawyers would apparently prefer that he not cooperate with the investigation into the Russia scandal at all.

But since there are political risks associated with refusing to answer questions, Trump World has explored a variety of alternative scenarios. At one point, for example, the president's defense team considered offering the special counsel's team a written affidavit, signed by Trump, "affirming" his innocence. Later, the president's lawyers offered pre-written narrative vignettes about various episodes that are the subject of ongoing federal scrutiny.

And then there's my personal favorite: Trump World explored the possibility of an on-paper interview, which would effectively be a take-home exam for the president. Evidently, Trump's legal team actually offered this, though it didn't go over well.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is now on President Trump's legal team, told CBS News correspondent Paula Reid Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller's office has rejected proposals to allow Mr. Trump to answer questions from investigators in writing.The president's legal team has signaled that this would be their preferred format for a possible interview, since it helps protect Mr. Trump from the possibility of lying or misleading investigators, which is a criminal offense.

Well, yes, I suppose it is far less likely that Trump would lie if his lawyers did his written homework for him, but that doesn't make this a reasonable request. [Update: Giuliani has also confirmed this story to NBC News.]

I'm not surprised Mueller and his team said no; I'm surprised the president's defense lawyers seriously put this on the table.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, reports that Trump World intends to decide by May 17 whether the president will answer Mueller's questions. The article added:

Preparing Mr. Trump to testify would be a serious distraction to his work as president, eating into time he needs to deal with pressing global issues, Mr. Trump's lawyers contend.In an informal, four-hour practice session, Mr. Trump's lawyers were only able to walk him through two questions, given the frequent interruptions on national-security matters along with Mr. Trump's loquaciousness, one person familiar with the matter said.

First, the idea that Trump is too busy to cooperate with the investigation is obviously foolish.

Second, if the president participated in a four-hour practice session and managed to get through two questions -- for an average of two hours per answer -- it suggests Trump might be even worse behind the scenes than he is in public when it comes to maintaining a train of thought.

"Anyone can see he has great difficulty staying on a subject," one person familiar with the legal team's deliberations told the WSJ.