Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 9:52 pm | Partly Cloudy 47º

 
 
 
 

Joe Conason: Yes, the President Must Testify

Donald Trump tells reporters that he is eager to chat with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating his campaign's suspected collusion with the Kremlin and his attempts to obstruct that investigation, but his sincerity is in doubt.

When he proclaims his willingness to let Mueller question him, "under oath," it sounds like typical Trump bluster.

Still, as one of the most successful liars in modern history — with a talent for prevarication that has seen him through many civil lawsuits and a presidential campaign — the former casino mogul may believe he can verbally slither past Mueller, too.

His lawyers feel no such confidence, however; they reliably show up to cancel his reckless offers to testify, as they did recently under some feeble pretext.

Should Mueller insist that Trump must testify, he is certain to complain that the special counsel is treating him unfairly.

He will cry "witch hunt." He will whine that no president has ever been subjected to such diabolical persecution. He will claim again that Hillary Clinton escaped from the FBI investigation of her emails without giving testimony under oath. None of which is true.

While there is no way to avoid a barrage of self-serving jive from Trump, let's be clear about certain basic facts: Not only did the FBI interrogate Hillary Clinton about her damned emails, but she and her husband testified before investigative authorities on several occasions during Bill Clinton's presidency.

On July 2, 2016, Hillary Clinton appeared at FBI headquarters in Washington, where she answered questions for well over three hours from the agents investigating her email practices. Although she would have been vulnerable to a subpoena, that wasn't necessary because she came in voluntarily.

More important, every word of that lengthy interview was subject to 18 U.S. Code 1001, the statute that criminalizes false statements to federal agents. Had Clinton lied, she could have been indicted for any material falsehood.

That was nothing new for her, having testified on at least eight other occasions during her husband's presidency. Prosecutors with the Office of Independent Counsel interviewed her five times for the Whitewater investigation — first in 1994, then twice in 1995 and twice in 1998.

She also testified before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Resolution Trust Corporation, always under the same punitive federal law. And eager as Kenneth Starr's minions were to indict her, there was never "sufficient evidence ... beyond a reasonable doubt." They had no case.

As for President Bill Clinton, it's true that he resisted the lawsuit brought against him by Paula Jones, who claimed that he had sexually harassed her in a Little Rock hotel room, all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

His lawyers argued, with ample justification in hindsight, that a civil lawsuit would become a severe distraction for a sitting president. The high court overruled the president, 9-0.

So Clinton famously testified in the Jones case, which led to his impeachment for lying about Monica Lewinsky. He had given a deposition under oath, and later testified on videotape for Starr's grand jury.

Years before those sorry events, Clinton also responded to the independent counsel's questions about Whitewater, giving three interviews to OIC prosecutors at the White House between 1994 and 1995.

He also submitted to three additional interviews by federal agents during the Justice Department's investigation of illicit fundraising in the 1996 presidential campaign. And he appeared by videotape at the Whitewater trial of James McDougal, the banker who swindled him and Hillary in that ill-fated land deal.

Such facts don't matter to Trump, who will snivel and slander and invent alternative facts to portray himself as a victim.

Yet no matter how much noise he makes, he will soon confront a fateful choice.

If he testifies, his legal risk will be extremely serious. If he refuses — or tries to escape by firing Mueller — his political risk will be equally grave.

Either way, as one of his confederates likes to say, his time in the barrel is coming.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JoeConason, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >