Mueller Investigation Latest Robert Mueller doesn't speak publicly about his investigation and his office is fighting news outlets seeking information. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks.
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Mueller Investigation Latest

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Mueller Investigation Latest

Mueller Investigation Latest

Mueller Investigation Latest

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Robert Mueller doesn't speak publicly about his investigation and his office is fighting news outlets seeking information. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

So far, Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election has led to five guilty pleas and more than a dozen other indictments. Beyond that, we don't know a whole lot about where the investigation is headed. Mueller doesn't speak publicly about it. And when asked, his spokesman declines to comment. The special counsel's office is even fighting a court case brought by five news organizations seeking to force the special counsel to release more investigation on the investigation. And the lack of information coming from Mueller leaves room for others to fill in the blanks, namely President Trump and his surrogates. Joining me now to talk about communication and the special counsel is Jill Wine-Banks. She served as special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. Welcome to the program.

JILL WINE-BANKS: Thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to start by asking, could Mueller actually reveal more about this investigation - reveal anything about the investigation without compromising it? They argue that if they reveal more information, it could harm the government's ability to uncover all the relevant facts. Is that true?

WINE-BANKS: That is true. There is another reason in addition, and then I'll go back to why that is such an important reason to begin with. But also, every piece of information that they are gathering comes through grand jury secrecy and the confidentiality that you promise to witnesses when you talk to them outside the grand jury. And if you cannot be trusted to keep your word on secrecy - excuse me, early in the morning for me. And if you don't keep your promises then future witnesses will be leery of cooperating with you, and you lose the ability to gather information for that reason. So that's very, very important.

The other reason that you don't want information public is because when you are dealing with witnesses who are prone to lying, who are willing to alter the truth, if you give them information, they will conform their testimony to accommodate whatever they know you know. And that hurts your ability to proceed in an investigation. So it's very, very damaging. It is traditional and required that a prosecutor remain silent. Normally, you do not have anyone with a megaphone the size of Donald Trump's. And you don't have anyone who's willing to use it in the way that he has. So you have pointed to a very serious problem because people are hearing one side only.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's my point. You know, everyone - and it's not just at the special prosecutor's office. It's the FBI, the Justice Department, other organizations that Trump has taken aim at. Everyone seems determined to take the moral high ground and sort of fall back on this traditional formula where you stay quiet, and you bear it. But is that working? Because we've seen polls show that public support for the investigation is deteriorating.

WINE-BANKS: It obviously isn't working, and it's very distressing to me. And I personally know the danger of this because I was once under attack for totally false things and could not respond. And it leaves - and this was in the days before Google, so that it leaves an unrebutted statement that's false. And here you have thousands of social media outlets that are portraying this as, here's what the president says. And when it's unanswered, it's sort of like being in a trial, and you're a juror, and you listen to the prosecution and you go, oh my God, the defendant is guilty. And then you hear the defense, and you go, oh, wait a minute, there's another side to the story. And people are being denied the ability to hear the other side of the story.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what should Mueller be doing then? If on the one hand you say there's certain things that he can't divulge - but on the other hand, this silence is hurting the investigation. What should be done?

WINE-BANKS: Well, I don't think it's hurting the investigation. And I think he must stick with the rules of the game. He has to. So the only thing we can do is wait until people hear through either indictments or through investigative reporting. And there are plenty of facts out there to conclude that there has been obstruction and that there has been collusion. There's no question in my mind that if you read the newspapers that are carrying the facts, if you listen to NPR, you will know that there is crimes. And as you pointed out, many people have already been indicted. Many have pled. Many are cooperating. We will get to the bottom of this through the criminal process, not through Congress, which has totally abandoned its opportunity to do a legitimate investigation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll have to leave it there. Legal analyst Jill Wine-Banks, thank you so much.

WINE-BANKS: Thank you.

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