President Trump surprised people late Friday by announcing that he is “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about his interactions with James Comey. There has been considerable speculation about Trump’s willingness to go under oath. His counsel could have negotiated at least initially for an interview without going under oath. As I have stated before, the greatest threat facing officials in a scandal of this kind is a false statements prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1001. Given Trump’s notorious habit for going off script, the risks of such a violation would be much higher for counsel prepping him for such a deposition or testimony.
Trump insisted that “I would be glad to tell him exactly what I told you.” He added “Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction. But we were very, very happy and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”
Curiously, while he refused to confirm or deny the existence of tapes (a controversy that he created in a tweet weeks ago), Trump said that “you will be very disappointed when you hear the answer.” Once again, it is unclear why Trump continues this evasion, which has openly frustrated even his allies in Congress.
Trump has continued to attack Comey. He maintained “No collusion, no obstruction. He’s a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country.”
The one thing working for Trump is that he has had more experience as a litigant than all of the past presidents combined. Yet, this is a criminal matter and any exaggeration or evasion can be charged as a crime under 18 U.S.C. 1001. Moreover, that crime would constitute an impeachable offense. I testified during the Clinton impeachment that perjury satisfies the standard under Article I of a high crime and misdemeanor regardless of the subject. I would feel the same way about such perjury in the Mueller investigation.
Assuming that there are no tapes, this would be left as a “he said, he said” dispute. However, similar statements made to other officials could create circumstantial evidence to support Comey. One concern that I would have with Trump’s statement is that it come too early. It is always better to wait to see what evidence Mueller has to fully prep your client.