Sources: Colin Kaepernick's legal team expected to subpoena President Trump in case against NFL

After months of circling President Donald Trump during NFL depositions and discovery, Colin Kaepernick’s lawyers are expected to force Trump directly into the ongoing legal battle between the quarterback and league.

Kaepernick’s legal team is expected to seek federal subpoenas in the coming weeks to compel testimony from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other officials familiar with the president’s agenda on protesting NFL players, sources with knowledge of the quarterback’s collusion case against the NFL told Yahoo Sports.

The aim will be a dive into the administration’s political involvement with the NFL during Kaepernick’s free agency and the league’s handling of player protests, sources said. This after recent disclosures that multiple owners had direct talks with Trump about players kneeling during the national anthem. The content of those conversations between Trump and owners – as well as any forms of pressure directed at the league by the administration – are expected to shape the requests to force the testimony of Trump, Pence and other affiliated officials, sources said.

What has to happen for Trump to be subpoenaed?

Due to the nature of the rules in collective bargaining grievances, reeling in sworn testimony from the political sector will create at least one additional hurdle for Kaepernick’s camp. The quarterback’s legal team first must notify the system arbitrator of the need for targeted depositions beyond the boundaries of the agreement between the NFL and the player’s union. That would entail presenting a detailed argument to the system arbitrator overseeing the grievance, spelling out the relevance and impact that testimony from Trump or others could have on the grievance. If the arbitrator rules the testimony would be justifiable, that would open the door for Kaepernick’s attorneys to seek the subpoenas in a district court under the Federal Arbitration Act.

That’s also where the process would get more complicated and contentious.

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Colin Kaepernick through his career
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Colin Kaepernick through his career
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #10 of the Nevada Reno Wolf Pack celebrates with fans after defeating the UNLV Rebels 44-26 at Sam Boyd Stadium October 2, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
30 December 2008: Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick (10) in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl held at Bronco Stadium in Boise, ID. (Photo by Steve Conner/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 29: Colin Kaepernick #10 #10 of the North Team scrambles out of the pocket while taking on the South Team during the fourth quarter of the Under Armour Senior Bowl on January 29, 2011 at Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Under Armour)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 12: Colin Kaepernick # 7 of the San Francisco 49ers defends as his team plays the New Orleans Saints during their pre season game at Louisiana Superdome on August 12, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws the ball from the pocket against the San Diego Chargers during their preseason NFL Game on September 1, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws before a game against the Seattle Seahawks on October 18, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won 13-6. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 09: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers runs down the field in between plays during their game against the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park on December 9, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 12: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after running in a touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers hugs a teammate as they celebrate in the locker room after the 49ers defeat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers answers questions on his tattoos during Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, in New Orleans, Louisiana.. (George Bridges/MCT via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up against the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 09: Professional football player/presenter Colin Kaepernick attends the Third Annual Hall of Game Awards hosted by Cartoon Network at Barker Hangar on February 9, 2013 in Santa Monica, California. 23270_002_SK_0224.JPG (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 08: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers runs onto the field for their preseason NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park on August 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 25: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles away from the rush of Fred Evans #90 of the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at Candlestick Park on August 25, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before a game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 26, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 20: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers runs the ball in the first half against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 20, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 20: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts during a NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 20, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after losing to the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines against the St. Louis Rams during the third quarter at Levi's Stadium on November 2, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 29: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to facing the Denver Broncos during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 29, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
20 September 2015: San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) [16242] in action during a game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 18: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to playing the Baltimore Ravens in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers fires the team up on the field prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the 49ers 31-24. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 24: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 1: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 25-23. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
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Should the system arbitrator and a federal judge find there is a basis to force Trump or others to sit for depositions, it would raise an argument over whether the president can actually be compelled by the courts to sit for a deposition. Trump could choose to ignore the order or simply decline, leaving it up to the justice system to enforce the subpoena.

Whether that would ever happen is a significant matter of debate.

Trump’s lawyers already fighting subpoenas in Mueller case

Multiple media outlets have reported Trump’s lawyers have already argued to special counsel Robert Mueller that the president couldn’t be compelled to comply with a criminal subpoena in the Russian collusion probe. It stands to reason if Trump would refuse to sit for a deposition in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, he’s also likely to refuse to comply with a subpoena from a district court stemming from Kaepernick’s arbitration case.

Complicating matters further? Even if Trump was attracted to lock horns more directly with Kaepernick, doing so in a deposition could potentially expose the president legally if it is found he somehow bore responsibility for NFL owners refusing to offer Kaepernick a job.

Still, there is also a flip side for Trump, whose head-on verbal barrage against the NFL over protesting players has been a red-meat issue politically, stoking his base and creating a staple talking point he has continually revisited. In theory, taking part in the Kaepernick case would give him the opportunity to air his thoughts about the quarterback face-to-face in a deposition – much the same way multiple NFL owners have done in the process. It would also offer Trump fertile material for his steady diet of social media and “Fox & Friends” appearances, which can’t be discounted.

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All of President Trump's tweets about the Mueller Russia probe
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All of President Trump's tweets about the Mueller Russia probe
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Col… https://t.co/T2n7SAWgJp
There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap). What there i… https://t.co/WU8JFuWLJi
House Intelligence Committee rules that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump Campaign and Russia. As I have bee… https://t.co/n4809kuVx3
Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. “No evidence” that the Trump Campaign “colluded, coordinate… https://t.co/3erasoPL4N
This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion an… https://t.co/GPYj4JbKgN
It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!
This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA
“Russians had no compromising information on Donald Trump” @FoxNews Of course not, because there is none, and neve… https://t.co/R9sniNq1ar
Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the… https://t.co/wEVP4iGN6n
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was base… https://t.co/oMCKEA7WmJ
The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in… https://t.co/W32TtSNOrw
A must watch: Legal Scholar Alan Dershowitz was just on @foxandfriends talking of what is going on with respect to… https://t.co/EZ7cdgtUUo
A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!
A complete Witch Hunt!
The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination… https://t.co/MMfLEunjG6
The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems… https://t.co/j7rc1QKCLw
James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classif… https://t.co/YfMYBrTkza
As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!
...case against him & now wants to clear his name by showing "the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan..." Witch Hunt!
The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt. Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm,..
Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!
When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!
Despite the phony Witch Hunt going on in America, the economic & jobs numbers are great. Regulations way down, jobs and enthusiasm way up!
A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!
Is this Phony Witch Hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what… https://t.co/7LtsbGyV80
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was base… https://t.co/oMCKEA7WmJ
Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democr… https://t.co/eA1AtTPv49
“Special Council is told to find crimes, whether a crime exists or not. I was opposed to the selection of Mueller t… https://t.co/KYsOPqiVBG
I have agreed with the historically cooperative, disciplined approach that we have engaged in with Robert Mueller (… https://t.co/yjSuYhmzJb
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? An… https://t.co/wKNAVhWJcz
If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him.… https://t.co/wi7FDNjqK7
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How will Kaepernick’s team build an argument to subpoena Trump?

But long before that quandary comes to fruition, Kaepernick’s attorneys will be tasked with illustrating a connection between the quarterback’s unemployment and Trump’s pressure on the NFL regarding protests during the national anthem.

With that in mind, multiple incidents could factor prominently into the request for subpoenas. Among a few (but not all) that could ultimately be referenced by Kaepernick’s attorneys:

• In August 2016, as a Republican presidential candidate, Trump went on Seattle radio station KIRO and remarked of Kaepernick protesting during the national anthem: “I think it’s personally not a good thing, I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”

That could prove to be significant, because it can be framed as the “clock-starting” moment when Trump’s interference in Kaepernick’s livelihood first began, then extended and became amplified into the presidency.

• In March 2017, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined Trump on a flight aboard Air Force One in which the two men engaged in conversation. The next day, at a speaking event in Kentucky, Trump bragged that NFL owners weren’t signing Kaepernick because they were afraid of him.

“Your San Francisco quarterback, I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” the president said. “… There was an article today that was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.”

In a later deposition in the Kaepernick case, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross testified Kraft told NFL owners he had spoken to Trump about players kneeling during the anthem. It wasn’t clear if that conversation occurred on the Air Force One flight or a different date.

• In September 2017, Trump spoke directly to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who later revealed during his deposition in the Kaepernick collusion case that the president told him, “Tell everybody [in the NFL], you can’t win this one. This one lifts me,” and that the player-kneeling issue was a “very winning, strong issue for me [politically].”

• Also in September 2017, Trump blasted NFL players during a speech in Alabama, taking direct aim at the jobs of kneeling players.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Trump said.

• In October 2017, Trump again spoke directly about Kaepernick, and again suggested NFL retribution against the quarterback for his kneeling during the anthem.

“I watched Colin Kaepernick [in 2016], and I thought it was terrible, and then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming, and frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game, and he would have never done it again,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “They could have then suspended him for two games, and they could have suspended him if he did it a third time, for the season, and you would never have had a problem. But I will tell you, you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem. You cannot do that.”

• Also in October 2017, Trump admitted to orchestrating a walkout of an NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts, in which Pence attended the game briefly and then left when players knelt during the national anthem.

• In late October 2017, a handful of NFL owners met with a select group of players during the league’s New York meetings. In a confidential meeting that was secretly taped and then leaked to the New York Times, Kraft can be heard referring to kneeling as the elephant in the room.

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said, according to the Times. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

The Times also quoted other owners at the meeting talking specifically about Trump’s impact. They included Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, who reportedly said, “We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,” and Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula, who reportedly worried that, “All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again. We need some kind of immediate plan because of what’s going on in society. All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on what’s going on in the country.”

• In March 2018, Ross told the New York Daily News that Trump had influenced him to reverse his support of players who chose to kneel during the anthem. It was the first time that an owner said publicly that Trump had influenced their stance on the issue.

“I think initially I totally supported the players in what they were doing, because it’s America – people should be able to really speak about their choices and show them [in] doing that,” Ross said. “But I think when you change the message, about, is it support of our country or the military, it’s a different message. When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against the kneeling. …[Trump’s] message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that’s the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that, because that’s how I think the country is now interpreting the kneeling issue.”

• In May 2018, after the NFL passed a rule prohibiting kneeling during the national anthem – but allowing players to remain in the locker room during the ceremony if they wish – some owners admitted that Trump had impacted the league’s motivation for creating a rule. The day after the NFL passed the rule, Trump once again revisited his remarks about players’ job statuses or whether they should be in the country if they didn’t stand for the anthem.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing – you shouldn’t be there,” Trump told “Fox & Friends.” “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

That is only a handful of some of the incidents reflecting Trump potentially influencing NFL owners on either Kaepernick or kneeling players. It doesn’t account for all of his statements or address the multitude of tweets he has sent about the issue – nor other private conversations that have reportedly occurred inside the NFL about his impact.

It remains to be seen whether the totality of those incidents will be enough to convince the system arbitrator in Kaepernick’s case or a federal judge to conclude that forcing depositions of Trump, Pence or others is necessary. But that appears to be the next avenue of pursuit for Kaepernick’s legal team, in a case that has only seemed to gain more traction with each passing month.

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