Opinion writer

As we have discussed previously, President Trump’s tweet regarding the real purpose of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting is injurious to Trump’s legal position regarding the possible underlying crime (i.e. seeking help from a foreign national to win a campaign) and the obstruction case against him (e.g. drafting the false statement about the meeting). But there is another way in which Trump has hurt himself.

Bob Bauer, former White House counsel, writes:

Trump is in the middle of fighting over the special counsel’s request for an interview. His legal team argues that the White House has already supplied all the information Mueller would need from him; he has nothing to add. They have attempted to fortify this case with the claim that the special counsel lacks the constitutional authority to compel this testimony from the president.

Now, however, Trump has put forward an unequivocal statement of the purpose of the Trump Tower meeting, acknowledging his son, Donald Trump, Jr. convened the meeting for the purpose of obtaining “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Mueller can rightly point out that what Trump knows about the meeting—and where he learned it, and when—is precisely why the interview is necessary.

Likewise, to the extent Trump ever contemplated invoking the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, his public statements have now waived that right. He cannot refuse to talk under oath if he has talked about it openly.

Trump’s insistence that he knew nothing about the meeting in advance is also fraught with danger. For one thing, Michael Cohen (and perhaps others) might contradict him, as might phone records of Trump Jr.’s calls to blocked phone numbers. (It’s a dubious argument to begin with. Does anyone think Trump Jr. would have the nerve to take the meeting and not tell his father?)

Moreover, Trump’s tweet reinforces the need for Trump to be interviewed, Bauer argues. “He is publicly asserting facts about a matter in which the special counsel has a clear and legitimate interest, while insisting he is not required to submit to questioning about them in an ongoing legal proceeding. He has expressed a judgment about two key facts: (1) what the meeting was about and (2) whether he knew about it in advance.” Trump’s loquaciousness on Twitter (not to mention his “executive time” and constant golf outings) also make it hard for his attorneys to argue that he cannot spare a moment to talk to the prosecutors. (“It is hard to see how Trump would be suffering inconvenience if required to share his views with the special counsel,” says Bauer. “If the principle ‘No one is above the law’ means anything, it would be fairly taken to deny the president the right to litigate a case in the press but excuse himself from the legal process.”) Frankly, we’ve never had a president who wastes so much time on golf, TV-watching and travels to his own properties.

In short, Trump really cannot contain himself. That’s the very reason his lawyers cannot imagine letting him sit for an interview. The chance that he will contradict himself and/or incriminate himself just as he did in the tweet is close to 100 percent. And thanks to Trump, there’s a better chance now that he will be compelled to give such testimony.