Mueller got some answers, but he's not done with Trump

President Donald Trump on Tuesday finally submitted a set of written responses to Robert Mueller, signaling that he was done for good with the special counsel's questions.

But Mueller is far from done with him.

The special counsel still wants to question the president over his actions while in the White House — Tuesday's answers only covered Russian hacking during the 2016 election. It's a fight that could result in a historic subpoena and eventual Supreme Court ruling, pulling a defiant Trump into a legal squabble that could set groundbreaking precedent for presidential investigations for years to come. Depending on how the battle plays out, House Democrats may even try to pounce and launch impeachment proceedings.

Things could get explosive fast. Next comes the perilous round of negotiations between Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s prosecutors covering topics like Trump's intentions when firing FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. That line of questioning — which Trump says he shouldn't have to answer — is tied to Mueller's ongoing obstruction of justice investigation. 

“These are very deep waters and complicated questions,” said John Q. Barrett, a St. John’s University law professor and former associate who worked under independent counsel Lawrence Walsh during the Reagan-era investigation into secret U.S. arms sales to Iran.

If Mueller can't get the answers he wants, he will have to decide whether he’s ready to test his power to issue a subpoena for the president’s testimony. Mueller’s prosecutors reportedly have made the threat before, but now the step comes with the added wrinkle that it could spark an internal Justice Department riff with his new supervisor, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who previously has been critical of the special counsel’s investigation.

Should the special counsel win DOJ approval and pull the subpoena trigger, he’d still have to face off against a president who has relished taunting Mueller and enter into a legal battle that could quickly elevate to the Supreme Court, where a newly enmeshed conservative majority is widely seen as friendlier to Trump’s arguments.


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