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Robert Mueller Set a Trap for Donald Trump and It Looks Like Trump Is About to Walk Right Into It

Special Counsel Robert Mueller told President Donald Trump's lawyers that he is not a criminal target of the Russia investigation, but rather a "subject" of the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and other crimes.

This in no way exonerates the president, of course, nor does it mean that charges could not be filed at a later date, should sufficient evidence emerge.

“Mueller hasn’t hesitated to [charge] people for lying on some pretty tangential stuff,” said Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy independent counsel in the probe of President Bill Clinton.

By offering Trump's team "assurance that his risk of criminal jeopardy was low," according to The Washington Post, Mueller appears to be attempting to entice the president into an interview.

Trump has repeatedly expressed interest in testifying in front of Mueller, in fact he has said he looks forward to it. And this news reportedly has Trump even more enthusiastic about the prospect of, as he sees it, clearing his name.

While Trump's lawyers and Trump himself appeared elated at the news, other advisers urged caution, because Mueller could be baiting Trump into an interview, which could deepen the president's legal woes.

Mueller’s description of the president’s status has sparked friction within Trump’s inner circle as his advisers have debated his legal standing. The president and some of his allies seized on the special counsel’s words as an assurance that Trump’s risk of criminal jeopardy is low. Other advisers, however, noted that subjects of investigations can easily become indicted targets — and expressed concern that the special prosecutor was baiting Trump into an interview that could put the president in legal peril.

Legal experts, like Princeton Professor of politics Keith Whittington, said the president should tread lightly.

If I were the president, I would be very reluctant to think I’m off the hook. My sense of it is the president — given that information — ought to have pretty fair warning anything he’s saying in the deposition would be legally consequential. Depending on what he says, it could wind up changing how the special counsel is thinking about him.

“The president’s personal risk is primarily on the impeachment front,” Whittington said. “Even if there are not things that lead to an indictment, there may be matters that warrant an impeachment investigation and proceedings.

Whether Mueller can issue an indictment against Trump remains unclear, however, he could try to convince Congress to start impeachment proceedings against the president, should evidence of criminal activity appear.

Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow and Ty Cobb, purportedly advised the president that after months of denying any collusion or wrongdoing, refusing an interview would be foolish.

“I think he would do much better than people think,” Wisenberg said. “But there are plenty of instances where a guy walks into a grand jury a subject. He gets out and is told: ‘Guess what, you’re a target now.’ ”