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Why Special Counsel Robert Mueller Hasn't Called The Trump Family In For Questioning


As special counsel Robert Mueller continues that probe into Russian interference, working his way through lists of folks he wants to interview, here's a thought to ponder. What about the president's family? So far, Don Jr. has not been called in for questioning, nor has Eric Trump, nor has Ivanka Trump. That's according to reporting from Politico's Annie Karni. She has been looking into possible reasons why. And she joins us now in our studio. Hey there, Annie.

ANNIE KARNI: Hi there. How are you?

KELLY: I'm well, thank you. So this is what makes this so interesting, is that these are not just the president's children, of course, but they are very close to his decision-making. And I want to ask about one possibility you explore, that going after the Trump kids may add to the voices who are calling this whole probe a witch hunt.

KARNI: That's right. One of the factors - I talked to people, former Justice Department lawyers and former federal prosecutors, who said part of the thinking here about whether or not to call in Ivanka Trump, for instance, someone who's been present at a lot of the key moments in the Trump-Russia timeline, would be thinking, what could we possibly get from her that we can't get from other people? And what would the cost be of calling her in?

In a normal investigation, you'd just call her in, costless. Here, the president and his surrogates who go on Fox News would have a case to make, saying, now this situation is dragging on. Now they're harassing the president's family members. This is a - President Trump already calls this a witch hunt. Imagine how he would be set...

KELLY: Right. And you're making it personal.

KARNI: Right, and you're making it much more personal. So that's a factor that they are - that - well, I shouldn't say they are thinking about - but they - that people familiar with this think would play a factor in their decision of whether or not to call in Ivanka.

KELLY: People familiar with the way that prosecutors would be laying out...

KARNI: Yes, (laughter) exactly.

KELLY: ...Who they want to interview and in what order. Is one other risk that you are hearing that this could jeopardize the possibility of an interview with President Trump himself, a possibility that's much in the news this week?

KARNI: Well, all part of the thinking of how to go about these interviews, who to call in and when. Mueller does want an interview with Trump. We saw the 49 questions that The Times published that are questions he wants to ask the president. The closer he gets to the inner circle around Trump, the more he's going to agitate the president, the more the president is going to potentially threaten to fire Mueller or not cooperate. We saw - we see that he didn't call in Hope Hicks, for instance, until December, one of Trump's...

KELLY: The president's former communications aide, right?

KARNI: ...Closest aide - yes. He's only called in Jared Kushner as far as we know on a very small issue.

KELLY: Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and also adviser. Yeah.

KARNI: That's right. So we see him sort of waiting on the people closest to the president. And we see him not yet touching immediate - no immediate family members as far as we now have had any - have dealt with the investigation.

KELLY: Annie, is it possible that they won't ever be called, that Team Mueller won't ever ask to question them?

KARNI: Well, in the case of Ivanka Trump - was what my story looked at - it's possible. She was present the weekend that Trump decided to fire Comey in May of last year. She was present on the plane on the way home from the G20 summit and involved in crafting the statement about Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton.

KELLY: And we may or may not see her called as this investigation proceeds. Thanks so much, Annie.

KARNI: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Annie Karni. She covers the White House for Politico.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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