Trump on the Stand: The Greatest Political and Legal Peril He’s Ever Faced


Jed Shugerman was quoted in a Washington Post article about Trump’s Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has told President Trump’s legal team that his office is likely to seek an interview with the president, triggering a discussion among his attorneys about how to avoid a sit-down encounter or set limits on such a session, according to two people familiar with the talks.

Mueller raised the issue of interviewing Trump during a late-December meeting with the president’s lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Mueller deputy James Quarles, who oversees the White House portion of the special counsel investigation, also attended.

Legally, the president is entitled to plead the Fifth Amendment even if he maintains he cannot be indicted in office. The relevant Office of Legal Counsel opinion makes clear: “Recognizing an immunity from prosecution for a sitting President would not preclude such prosecution once the President’s term is over or he is otherwise removed from office by resignation or impeachment. . . . [T]he immunity from indictment and criminal prosecution for a sitting President would generally result in the delay, but not the forbearance, of any criminal trial.”

Fordham Law School professor Jed Shugerman reasons, “Thus, he still has the privilege against self-incrimination for that later criminal liability.” Nevertheless, the hullabaloo and the implication of guilt, fairly or not, would likely be politically lethal.

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