Missing from Mueller report: A one-on-one interview with Trump, George Ryan prosecutor says
Despite the myriad subpoenas, search warrants and more than 400 pages, the Mueller report is missing something major -- an interview with its subject, President Donald Trump, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins says.
"The inability to interview the president is one of the significant things that jumped out at me," Collins said of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump and Attorney General William Barr on Thursday concluded Mueller cleared the president of crimes.
"I do believe the report exonerates him (Trump) legally on alleged collusion or conspiracy to interfere with the election involving the Russians," said Collins, a Lisle native and key prosecutor in the corruption conviction of former Gov. George Ryan in 2006.
"As someone who doesn't have a dog in the fight and is watching as a former prosecutor, I'm left with a feeling of incompleteness when Mueller effectively punted on the obstruction question given all that went into the report and how polarized the country is."
In investigating former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, federal prosecutors spoke in person with them and "both men were charged with false statements in their interviews," Collins said.
Face-to-face encounters are critical for investigators to gauge someone's state of mind and get their version of events, he said, noting that it's also why defense lawyers are wary of a perjury trap.
Mueller said issuing a subpoena to the White House would have caused lengthy delays.
"What happened here was that President Donald Trump gave answers to questions in writing, which as an investigator is a very ineffective way to get a person's story," Collins said.
"What the Mueller team ended up settling for was essentially a written exchange of questions and answers, many of which he responded to with 'I don't recall' or rephrased the question in a way to answer a question he wanted to answer.
"That's nothing like the dynamic of a face-to-face exchange, which is not scripted," said Collins, who was part of the team that interviewed Ryan.
The Mueller report cites 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice, including Trump telling White House Counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller, which McGahn refused to do.
"I don't believe (Trump's) exonerated on obstruction nor is he implicated on obstruction in a legal sense," Collins said.
"The lack of a definitive statement is in itself a statement," Collins said. For prosecutors, "when we speak, we speak by indictment or not at all."
Former U.S. Attorney and Lake County judge Fred Foreman is well-acquainted with Mueller and another key player, William Barr, after working with them in the Justice Department.
"Bob Mueller and Bill Barr are not only very professional about the way they go about their jobs, they're friends," Foreman said.
A former Lake County state's attorney, Foreman noted the Mueller report is not the final word.
"Even though one side says 'it's not over' and the administration says 'it's over,' the footnote is, there are still active investigations going on in the Southern District of New York," Foreman said.
And while calls for unredacted versions of the document are circulating, "the way things go in Washington, everyone will know what is in that report in a week."
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.