His former campaign chief Paul Manafort’s case is in front of a jury. The White House counsel spent 30 hours with the special counsel. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is purportedly going to get charged with tax and bank fraud, among other things. The most respected faces in the intelligence community outside government have stood up to his bullying tactics, accusing him of taking away former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance for partisan, nonsecurity reasons. Republicans in House races are looking at the potential for a historic clobbering. If Democrats pick up seven to eight governorships, as they realistically have a shot at doing, there will be that many fewer allies to attack old Obama-era laws and regulations, and that many more Democrats to attack his actions.
No wonder President Trump is in meltdown mode.
Monday, he tweeted:
Actually, the dossier to which he refers has been confirmed in part. (My colleague Glenn Kessler notes, “The dossier is a frequent target of presidential derision, but the probe into the Trump campaign originally was sparked by a separate matter that Steele never wrote about — a tip from an Australian diplomat that a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, appeared to know Russia had obtained damaging emails on the Democrats.” While Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS, there is no evidence she was materially involved in Christopher Steele’s work. But aside from that, does he think his Justice Department isn’t the Justice Department?
Later in the day Trump was at it again. Reuters reports:
Trump echoed the concerns of his top lawyer in the probe, Rudy Giuliani, who has warned that any sit-down with Mueller could be a “perjury trap.”
The president expressed fears that investigators could compare his statements with that of others who have testified in the probe, such as former FBI Director James Comey, and that any discrepancies could be used against him.
“Even if I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar,” Trump said. “That’s no good.”
If he is a liar, then he’s, well, a liar, actually. The “perjury trap” hooey is easily dispensed with (Hint: Do not lie.). Trump, however, has another problem: He cannot tell the truth.
Well, yes, over 4,229 lies later, it appears Trump is incapable of telling the truth. But what I meant is that telling the truth as to what he and his son did is more perilous than trying to lie under oath.
Here is why the truth is so dangerous for Trump: He publicly called for the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails. He fired former FBI director James B. Comey with Russia in mind, he told Lester Holt. He presented a phony reason for the firing to the public (Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails). His son met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer for the purpose of getting something of value: dirt on Clinton. Trump was instrumental in drafting an untrue description of the meeting. He has publicly threatened to fire the special prosecutor; tormented Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his recusal; aligned himself with House Republicans trying to out a confidential source and trying to mislead the public on the warrant to obtain surveillance on suspected spy Carter Page; and put out entirely false conspiracy theories (a spy was planted on his campaign, President Barack Obama bugged his office, etc.) for the purpose of discrediting and impeding the Russia investigation. I could go on and on, but you see the problem.
These are facts that at this point really are not in dispute — because either Trump or his lawyers have confirmed them or because we have read his tweets and heard his statements. It’s not the lying that will get him in trouble, it’s confirming that some or all of these are true — and adding in further detail what cumulatively can be used to form the basis of an obstruction charge. Think of a Mueller interview not as a perjury trap but as a truth trap.
Not cooperating, of course, raises the constitutional issue of whether a president can comply with his oath (“take care that the laws are enforced”) when he refuses to cooperate with investigation and enforcement of federal laws (on campaign finance, obstruction, etc.). In other words, he’s damned if he lies or if he tells the truth. It’s a disaster if he testifies or if he refuses. And there’s only one person responsible for his trap(s) — and it’s not Robert S. Mueller III.