During a press conference Wednesday, President Trump would not commit to sitting down to do an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, instead calling the situation “unlikely.” When asked about his willingness to cooperate with the investigation by speaking directly to Mueller, Trump gave a meandering two-minute answer that somehow referenced the Electoral College before offering an elusive response. “We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “When they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.”
Trump’s hedge on his personal cooperation comes just days after NBC News reported that Mueller informed Trump’s lawyers in December that he will likely pursue an interview with the president, although no formal request nor date has been set. Trump’s legal team would likely try to control the circumstances under which such an interaction would take place. If the president refuses a voluntary interview, Mueller could then try to compel him with a grand jury subpoena.
Trump’s latest statements run counter to his previously stated willingness to meet with Mueller. In June, Trump went so far as to say he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about his conversation with then-FBI Director James Comey. NBC News reported earlier this week that the talks between the special counsel’s office and Trump’s lawyers were taking a “collaborative approach.” That is a reminder that the nature of Trump’s participation is a negotiated matter, at least initially. That could make Trump’s recent hedge a strategic tactic more than a change of heart, where he’s setting the bar low for what he’s willing to give in terms of cooperation in order to influence the terms of the final agreement.