Is this the real reason?
How can it be news to Trump that Mueller wants to interview him about obstruction?
Ah well. One thing you definitely want to do when you find out the special counsel is looking at you for obstructing justice is … scream to the world that the attorney general should shut down the probe.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office wants to ask President Donald Trump about obstruction of justice, sources close to the White House tell ABC News. According to sources, the president learned within the last day that the special counsel will limit the scope of questioning and would like to ask questions both orally and written for the President to respond to.
According to sources familiar with the President’s reaction Wednesday morning, that was the genesis for his early morning tweet storm…
Negotiations over a potential presidential interview have gone on for months, through several different iterations of the Trump legal team. Current lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told ABC News a week ago that his team had submitted a response to Mueller asking to limit the scope of an interview with Trump especially as it relates to obstruction of justice.
That’s correct, and that might explain Trump’s frustration. Rudy told reporters last week that he was in contact with Mueller’s office about a potential interview, but he didn’t want to merely “limit” the questions on obstruction. He wanted no questions on the subject. Verboten. If Mueller wanted to ask Trump about collusion, that would be more acceptable. But nothing on obstruction. So here’s Mueller writing back today, saying, “We want to talk about obstruction.”
Which gives you a pretty good idea where both sides think Trump’s chief criminal exposure lies.
I’ve given up trying to figure out why POTUS and his lawyers haven’t finally and conclusively ruled out an interview yet, at least on obstruction. Clearly that’s what his legal team would prefer given the risk that he’ll chatter his way into legal jeopardy. The politics of refusing an interview carry some risk, especially if Mueller tries to subpoena him, but the GOP base is sufficiently sour on the Russia probe by now that they’ll back Trump’s refusal to talk to the hilt. Does this sound like a party inclined to find his silence suspicious?
In the survey, 11% of people who identify as Republican or lean Republican say it’s “appropriate” for Russia to help Republicans keep control of Congress in the upcoming elections. Another 29% say it’s “not appropriate, but wouldn’t be a big deal” for the Russians to help. So combined, 40% of Republicans either approve of Russian interference, or don’t strongly object to it.
Frankly, I don’t understand why Mueller’s office is prolonging the interview process instead of offering him a yes-or-no ultimatum about an interview. Trump’s strategy, I think, is to play for time. The longer resolution of the obstruction investigation takes, the greater the chance that it won’t come until after the midterms, reducing the electoral risk to Republicans, and the more time Trump will have to continue to try to turn public opinion against Mueller before he shows his cards. His “witch hunt” campaign has had some success in reducing public faith in the Russiagate probe. The longer Mueller waits for a firm answer on an interview, the more he’ll be forced to wait until after the election or else inevitably be accused of timing the release of his report to hurt Republicans. Either forget the interview and go with the evidence you have or take your chances on a subpoena, knowing that the odds are against you. What’s the point of stretching this out further?
Here’s Rudy hinting that there’ll be no interview, claiming that Mueller’s at the end of the obstruction probe and that it’s time to put up or shut up — “render the report,” as he says. The only reason I can think of for Mueller continuing to negotiate over an interview is if he’s already resolved to hold back his obstruction report until after the midterms, knowing that he’ll be accused of politicizing the case and “pulling a Comey” by intervening in a national campaign if he doesn’t. If he’s intent on waiting three more months then there’s no reason to rule out an interview now. Who knows? Maybe Trump will change his mind and agree to talk for whatever weird reason sometime between now and November.
“We believe the investigation should be brought to a close … Put up or shut up,” President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani says about the Russia investigation pic.twitter.com/ifiKybi01r
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 1, 2018