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What's the difference between being the subject of an investigation, rather than a target?

Report: Trump not target of Mueller probe
Report: Trump not target of Mueller probe 04:09

The Washington Post reported this week that while President Trump is the subject of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, he is not a target of the investigation. What does it mean to be a subject, rather than a target?

CBS News legal correspondent Paula Reid laid out some of the differences Wednesday on CBSN. For one thing, if you're a target, the feds will tell you. 

"If federal prosecutors want to bring you in to testify before a grand jury, and you are under investigation -- considered to have possibly committed a crime -- you are sent what is called a 'target letter,'" Reid said. "You are put on notice that you are a target of this investigation, and whatever has been unearthed in this investigation suggests you may have committed a crime."

Meanwhile, the behavior of the subject of an investigation can be under scrutiny even if he or she is not considered a criminal target. 

For now, sources close to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe tell Reid that there is no conclusion and not enough evidence to suggest the president violated the law, so, "at this point, he is not considered a target," Reid told CBSN. "But his behavior, his actions -- specifically during the firing of (FBI Director) James Comey, and his interactions with top Justice officials -- those are still being investigated during this overall probe."

There remain ongoing negotiations about whether the president will be interviewed by the special counsel. Mr. Trump has said he'd like to talk with Mueller, but his lawyers may not be entirely convinced. 

Mr. Trump has testified in depositions before. Reid has reviewed that testimony in previous depositions, and said that president is very different than the person reflected in his Twitter handle. Mr. Trump understands the risks of testifying, and he's very straightforward.

But the risks are high for anyone who testifies as a subject, Reid points out. "You can go into an interview as a subject and emerge a target" because you've "given investigators something to change that posture." Regardless of whether Mr. Trump is interviewed, though, that status could change.

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