The White House’s “tenuous grasp on truth” creates a “massive vulnerability” for perjury in the investigation into possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta, said in an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday.
“It’s usually not what you did back then, it’s what you say now that gets you in trouble,” Podesta told Washington Post National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty. “And for a group of people who seem to have a very tenuous grasp on the truth, the chance of lying in an official investigation is pretty high. And I think that is a place where they have massive vulnerability.”
Podesta’s comments during a Washington Post Live interview came on the heels of a Post report that Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials to push back on the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
“It’s not just Mike Flynn, it’s not just Paul Manafort,” Podesta said. “It’s, you know, not just the people who they’ve kind of pushed out or pushed aside, but people actively in the White House that are under investigation.”
On Tuesday, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was cleared by the Justice Department to act as special counsel in the Russia investigation. Podesta noted that it is up to Mueller “to conduct a complete investigation” and “ask the hard questions.”
On the prospects of a Trump impeachment:
Podesta, who served as White House chief of staff during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, said he sees “no sign” that the same thing will happen to Trump.
“I think the Republican leadership has decided, you know, we’re in the boat with him, and the boat’s going to sink and we’re going to sink with it, but we can’t really throw him out of the boat — that’s not going to be politically viable for us,” Podesta said. “So, they’ve decided to — as I’ve said before — to Velcro their fate to him.”
He added that he thinks there is “no chance that the House would mount the kind of serious investigation that would lead to impeachment.”
On unproven conspiracy theories surrounding the murder of a former DNC staffer:
Podesta also weighed in on the unproven conspiracy theory that has been circulated by Fox News host Sean Hannity, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others concerning the unsolved murder of former DNC staffer, Seth Rich. The theory suggests that it was not Russia but Rich who leaked the hacked Democratic Party emails last year and that he was murdered to cover up the true story.
“It’s pretty disgusting to see a former Speaker of the House traffic in this at this point,” Podesta said of Gingrich.
(On Tuesday, Fox News retracted the digital story that ran last week, which helped reignite the conspiracy theory. And on his TV show Tuesday night, Hannity told his viewers that “out of respect for the family’s wishes, for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time”).
When asked why he is certain that Russia was behind the hack, Podesta said: “Because 17 intelligence agencies gave a report to the president of the United States and released it to the public, which identified Russian intelligence.”
On Trump’s first foreign trip:
Podesta, a Washington Post contributing columnist, offered his assessment of President Trump’s overseas trip — the first of his presidency — which has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.
“I think he’s doing okay,” Podesta said. “But I think it’s pretty scripted — it’s a pretty scripted trip. So, he’s basically not interacting with the press. He’s reading words off of the teleprompter, and he’s in very friendly audiences.”
Podesta predicted Trump will face tougher audiences later this week.
“I think when he goes to Europe, that’ll be a little bit of a different story,” he said. “When he goes to NATO, when he goes to the G7, where people are questioning his direction where he’s trying to take the country.”