(UPDATE II) Why The Trump-Mueller Interview Standoff Will Lead To A Big Kaboom
A speeding drunk driver plows into a crowded school bus, but the drunk’s lawyers tell investigators he won’t agree to an interview if it includes questions about the accident. That incredibly — if not surprisingly — is where we find ourselves nearly a year after Donald Trump launched a vicious circle of denunciations of Robert Mueller laced with expressions of willingness to sit for an interview with the special counsel (because he doesn’t have anything to hide) and declarations from his lawyers putting restrictions on any interview (because he has so much to hide).
“We have a real reluctance about allowing any questions about obstruction [of justice],” explained lead lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Monday in saying Mueller will be receiving a letter to that effect this week, but it should not be considered a turndown of his request to ask the president questions — pretty please — regarding obstruction, which are as central to his investigation as questions the drunk would be asked about that nasty collision with the school bus.
The letter, which went out on Wednesday, rejected the special counsel’s latest terms for an interview and countered with an offer that suggested a narrow path for answering questions, a probable prelude to an eventual rejection of any kind of interview and the specter of a subpoena.
Are we there yet?
Giuliani did acknowledge that further stalling on a decision that should have been made months ago might peeve investigators.
“Sure, it could,” Giuliani said. “But they are trying to get something on perjury, and that’s not going to happen. The answers, with regard to [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn and the firing of [FBI Director James] Comey are already well known, and they’re not going to change. He’d say the same thing in the interview that he’s said publicly.”
Are we there yet?
No we aren’t, which means that the three biggest stories in Washington over the normally sleepy dog days of summer are on track to collide in spectacular fashion if, as is possible, Mueller runs out of patience and his grand jury subpoenas Trump to appear for an interview just as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight gets underway.
That would occur after the denouement of the third of those big stories.
We’re talking about the November 6 midterm elections and the probability Democrats will take back the House if not the Senate, as well, and begin impeachment proceedings a New York minute after the 116th Congress convenes on January 3. That is if the Russians don’t once again screw with the gear works.
(The results out of Ohio’s 12th District on Tuesday were beyond encouraging. Although a Republican took the district by 35 points in 2016 and Trump by 11 points, the Democrat in the special congressional was in a virtual tie with provisional votes still to be counted. Best of all, the district’s suburban Democrat-leaning base turned out in far greater numbers than the rural Trump-leaning base.)
The one certainty among these three biggies is that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, which means he could end up being the deciding Supreme Court vote on the question of whether Trump can be compelled to obey a grand jury subpoena as were Thomas Jefferson (for Aaron Burr treason trial documents), Richard Nixon (for Watergate-related tapes) and Bill Clinton (for testimony in the Paula Jones case).
Leaving aside whether Kavanaugh will ignore those cases requiring sitting presidents to obey grand jury subpoenas and defer to executive privilege (something that is not a foregone conclusion for either he or Chief Justice John Roberts, in my view), we at the very least have a collision of events that would make the drunk’s crash with the school bus seem like a fender bender.
As Greg Sargent puts it in The Washington Post:
So we may soon face a situation in which a president whose campaign is under investigation for collaboration with a hostile foreign power’s sabotaging of our democracy — and who has gone to enormous lengths to both scuttle that investigation and to publicly vindicate that foreign power — is seeking to avoid questioning on these matters, with the help of the justice he just appointed, possibly (given what we know about Trump) in part for this very reason.
Beyond the fact we are not there yet, the big takeaway from Trump’s never ending game of Truth or Dare is that American democracy is a mess and a consequence is that we’re saddled with a president who believes himself to be above the law.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.