Mueller Ready to Get Trump on the Record on His Involvement in the Russian Conspiracy


The NYT finally has a story that admits Trump is at risk under conspiracy charges!

It reports that Mueller told Trump’s lawyers last Friday that he’d be willing to start with written answers about his involvement in the election conspiracy, while bracketing obstruction questions as privileged.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will accept written answers from President Trump on questions about whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference, Mr. Mueller’s office told Mr. Trump’s lawyers in a letter, two people briefed on it said on Tuesday.

But on another significant aspect of the investigation — whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry itself — Mr. Mueller and his investigators understood that issues of executive privilege could complicate their pursuit of a presidential interview and did not ask for written responses on that matter, according to the letter, which was sent on Friday.

Mr. Mueller did not say that he was giving up on an interview altogether, including on questions of obstruction of justice. But the tone of the letter and the fact that the special counsel did not ask for written responses on obstruction prompted some Trump allies to conclude that if an interview takes place, its scope will be more limited than Mr. Trump’s legal team initially believed, the people said.

For the moment, I’m not going to say what I think this means (I’ve got some ideas, but will hold those for now).

Instead, consider what questions will be included in Trump’s take-home test, from the list the NYT first published (though it has presumably grown since March when Jay Sekulow wrote it up). I’m going to group them, here, under things we know Mueller has been up to in recent months.

November 30, 2017: Mike Flynn pleads guilty as part of a cooperation deal

Last year, Mike Flynn pled guilty as part of a cooperation deal; he has a status hearing — scheduled on a 24 day interval — on September 17. Flynn has spent the last nine months answering these questions:

  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  • What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?
  • What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?
  • What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

February 23: Rick Gates pleads guilty as part of a cooperation deal

On February 23, Rick Gates pled guilty as part of a big cooperation agreement. Two weeks later, Mueller obtained search warrants for 5 AT&T phones (and probably an equivalent number of Verizon phones), at least one of which is Paul Manafort’s and one of which may be Roger Stone’s. Gates can surely help answer the following questions:

  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  • What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?
  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  • What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?

April: Jared testifies for seven hours

Sometime in April, Jared testified for seven hours. Jared is likely to be able to provide some answers about the following questions:

  • What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?
  • What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?
  • When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?
  • What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?
  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?

May 22: Sam Patten makes his first proffer for a cooperation deal

On August 31, Sam Patten pled guilty to FARA violations in the context of a cooperation agreement for which he made his first proffer back on May 22. Patten may know some of the answers to these questions:

  • What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  • What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?

August 17: Paul Manafort seeks a plea deal

During jury watch in his first trial, Manafort and Mueller’s lawyers had aborted discussions about a plea deal, at least to resolve his second trial. Manafort’s lawyers are only belatedly preparing for the second trial, jury selection for which begins on September 17.

Manafort would be able to answer the following questions:

  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  • What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?
  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  • What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?

August 21: “They’re squeezing Don Jr. right now”

On August 21, Vanity Fair reported that Mueller has been making document follow-up requests pertaining to Jr.

Another theory for what’s motivating Trump’s increasingly unhinged tweets is that Mueller may be closing in on his son Don Jr. “A lot of what Trump is doing is based on the fact [that] Mueller is going after Don Jr.,” a person close to the Trump family told me. “They’re squeezing Don Jr. right now.”

Don Jr.’s lawyer said, “I’m not going to comment.” Another person briefed on the investigation disputed the term “squeeze,” but said the Mueller team continues to ask for documents.

These questions would directly pertain to Don Jr and the documents he has been turning over:

  • During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?
  • When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?
  • What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?

August 21: Michael Cohen pleads guilty to eight charges while begging to cooperate

On August 21, Michael Cohen pled guilty to eight charges; both before and after he has desperately shopped a plea deal (though he has gone quiet in recent days). Cohen’s cooperation might help answer these questions:

  • During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?
  • What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
  • What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

September 7: The second-to-last known witness against Roger Stone testifies before the grand jury

On Friday, Randy Credico will bring his dog to visit the grand jury and describe how Roger Stone tried to convince him to claim he was Stone’s back channel to Assange (he has already interviewed with Mueller’s team, so they know what he’s going to say). Mueller has been questioning witnesses about Stone since February, and just one — Andrew Miller — remains to testify (assuming the sealed order Beryl Howell signed on August 13) didn’t immunize him for part of his testimony).

That long line of witnesses likely provided information relevant to these questions:

  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  • What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?

In short, while the NYT has been reporting incessantly about the obstruction charges against Trump, Mueller has accumulated a good deal of evidence to answer the questions about the Russian conspiracy that Trump’s lawyers have in the past said they’d be willing to answer.

I’d say Mueller’s ready to get Trump’s answers — which will not be truthful — on the record. You don’t need obstruction charges involving Jim Comey when you’re guaranteed the President will lie on the record about conspiracy.

Update: In their version of this story, WaPo notes they’ll return to obstruction discussions later.

On potential obstruction-of-justice issues, “he said he’d assess it down the road,” said one person familiar with Mueller’s letter who requested anonymity to discuss private communications. “They’re essentially saying, ‘We’ll deal with this at a later date.’”

That makes sense. There’s bound to be more obstruction to discuss later down the road, whether it’s lies in response to these questions or attempted pardons.

Update: One other thing this does. This letter, inviting Trump to answer questions in writing, came a day after the first detailed story on Rudy’s counter-report came out. Rudy’s blabbing about how they’re going to release a report that purportedly addresses all of Mueller’s concerns will make it hard (but never impossible) to refuse to comply. And it will also give Rudy a hobby that will distract from inventing conspiracy theories about Mueller conflict.

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

109 replies
  1. anonymous says:

    Marcy, despite the central role of the conspiracy case, do you still think Trump will eventually be charged (whether in Rosenstein referring facts to Congress, or as a co-conspirator in an indictment) for obstruction?

      • Bob Conyers says:

        Not that they care one ounce for consistency, but I wonder how the GOP members who voted to impeach or convict Clinton for lying to Starr will justify letting Trump go on obstruction, no matter how much bad it is.

        A quick look at the votes says that Senators Enzi, Grassley, Hatch, Inhofe, Kyl, McConnell, Roberts, Shelby, Portman, Crapo, Wicker, Blunt, Burr, Graham, and Thune all voted against Clinton in the Senate or House. Of course if they don’t care now about the simple case, there’s no way they will worry about the bigger issue at hand.

    • Avattoir says:

      Oh yeah. But the question is HOW.

      There are lots of reasons for why criminal trial defense attorneys work so hard to keep their clients from going on the witness stand, but one of the biggest is they have no desire to see the absolutely feral drool start to flow from the mouths of government prosecutors.

      The latter of course KNOW the defendant is going to lie. They’ve seen it. They plan on it. They plan FOR it. They plan to work ON and WITH the defendant’s lies.

      It’s never a pretty sight for the defense side. One of the areas prosecutors have to learn is how in effect leave their counsel tables and get right into the jury box and start in on the defendant from that position, from those perspectives. After a while, it’s really not hard to instigate the kind of a feeding frenzy we see in documentaries about prides of lions dining on their victims.

      The art is in getting the defendant to join in the feast: to have him dine on his own lies.

      • Willis Warren says:

        How?  He’s lying to his lawyers, and they’ll give him bad advice.  It’s not a chess game, it’s checkers.  His lawyers are stupid if they let him answer conspiracy questions…. or, they’re being lied to.  Their defense will be “woops, he lied to us” and Emmett Flood will clean up the mess.

        • Avattoir says:

          You probably noticed that WaPo’s promotion of Woodward’s new book, “Fear”, includes his description of John Dowd conducting or leading Trump thru a mock cross-examination.

          So, whither Dowd now? He got fired.

          Here are the 2 bib risks in an attorney not confronting the client on the client’s version of the facts: the attorney may well be sent out on a children’s crusade to be reduced to cannon fodder, and client may be entirely unprepared for far less friendly confrontation by opposing counsel at trial.

          Attorneys don’t hire their clients (not outside radical conservative interest-based constitutional litigation): clients hire attorneys.

          Challenging your boss is not comfortable, pleasant or safe. It’s bound to look like the attorney doesn’t believe the client (often that’s actually true). Some clients will break & confess: that’s one of justifications that underlies client-attorney privilege.

          But clients are people, and people tend not to enjoy being taken apart, most of all by the hired help they already resent having had to hire and pay.

          Making all this the more hazardous is that, generally, the more savage the mock challenge, the more effective the outcome for the client’s best interests.

          A common concept among attorneys is that the attorneys opposing them are not their enemies (In the UK, Canada, Aus, etc., trial lawyers refer to each other in court as “my friend”, & it’s very often true.); judges are way more often their enemies than opposing counsel; and their most dangerous enemies are their own clients.

          It is, in fact, not checkers, nor even chess: it’s a far more complex game, where your own major pieces might turn on you & are the biggest threat to you.

          (Hey: a fun variation on chess! Before the game, each player can write down and hide the designation of one opposing piece that the player can choose as a covert agent, and at any moment the player can turn that covert agent against its supposed master. Like chess meets Risk.)

          Also: Emmett Flood is not The Miracle Worker, by any stretch.

    • Kevin Finnerty says:

      An in-person interview poses obvious risks. (If we are to believe Bob Woodward, Dowd reenacted Trump’s practice session for Mueller and told him point blank that Trump is incapable of telling the truth-a claim so staggering that I hesitate to accept it as truth).

      But my hunch is that written answers pose their own set of risks too. They would presumably come through counsel, which means Trump’s propensity for lying will crash head on with his attorneys’ professional obligations. If Trump insists that his lies be submitted to the Special Counsel, his attorneys will have to decide whether they want to comply and throw away their licenses, or step aside and cause a PR fiasco. Maybe this is one of those legal tasks that can be delegated to Stephen Miller, who cut his teeth by drafting the Muslim ban and the first draft of Comey’s termination letter.

        • Sam R says:

          If a lawyer knowingly submits his client’s lies to the DOJ, isn’t there much more at stake for the lawyer than just their legal license and reputation?

          Would the lawyers have exposure in obstruction, lying to the DOJ, or participating (furthering) a conspiracy against the US?

          Although, I think Trump is probably lying to his lawyers, they may suspect that and refuse to sign-off?

        • bmaz says:

          Um, not really, and not even that if you set it up right. You make the client be the signatory (or witness if in court). As long as there is some tenable basis for thinking what is proffered is true, the defense attorney will be okay. I bet Flood doesn’t put his byline on this shit though.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        You also have to assume once submitted and sworn, the very next day Trump will already  be saying the opposite of some of those answers. Which may well turn his legal team into babbling, sobbing  maniacs.

    • orionATL says:

      20-questions is a lot less legally problematic/time-consuming for mueller than demands of a president to sit for discovery questioning, let alone a grand jury subpoena. i would think a refusal by the white house would also be a win for the osc team.

      but in a list of questions, each to be answered, it’s the (functional) silences – the vague answers, the platitudinous responses, the elisions, the evasions – that i suspect will carry great weight in time.

      i imagine mueller and his prosecutors sitting around and batting about how trump-cum-lawyers will evade this crucial question or that. the lawyerly lying from the prez’s protectors should equal any emptywheel has ever written about, cf. her dissection of many an nsa lawyer’s public comments.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      As a part of the lying, I wonder to what extent Trump will throw others under the bus.

      The Post ran a hilarious transcript of Bob Woodward’s short discussion with Trump. Woodward rebutted Trump’s lie that he was never approached for an interview by noting he had asked Kellyanne Conway and Raj Shah about an interview, and Trump immediately doubled down on the lie by accusing them of falling down on the job.

      People like Kushner and Priebus must know Trump is a major risk for their defenses. Will they sit by passively while Trump tries to blame them for Russian dealings? Have they already taken steps to immunize themselves?

  2. arbusto says:

    So a take home quiz, open book with mono syllable words, short simple sentences, filtered through the best legal team ever and still a fail?  Make America great.

  3. Avattoir says:

    It won’t be short, or sharp, or quick, or brief, or in monosyllables. It’s going to be painful, it’s going to draw blood, and it’s going to take time: maybe just the sort of time the OSC needs to get the job done.

  4. jharp says:

    Reading this post gave me great optimism

    I don’t know how many are on your team of lawyers but I’ll bet Mueller’s team is quite a bit bigger and has quite a few more resources.

  5. Kevin Finnerty says:

    “Instead, consider what questions will be included in Trump’s take-home test, from the list the NYT first published (though it has presumably grown since March when Jay Sekulow wrote it up).”

    I would love to know if questions about the Clinton campaign’s analytics have made it onto the take home exam. That was such an odd fact to raise in the last round of indictments. Although maybe that issue is encompassed in the question about Russian hacking and social media.

    Some random thoughts on Kushner: things have been very quiet on his front for a long time. I suspect that’s mostly a function of the fact that he realized he’s in real legal jeopardy and that this isn’t something that can be won via a tabloid war. (That was one of the more amusing periods last year- when Kushner and Don Jr. were duking it out in the papers as if one could win a news cycle over the other and thereby escape the Special Counsel’s grasp). It makes me wonder which of those two is closer to the center from Mueller’s RICO style roll-up vantage point. If Don Jr. is getting “squeezed” now, maybe that’s the answer. On the known facts, Kushner is probably closer to the center of the conspiracy, but he’s also more expendable to Trump.

    • emptywheel says:

      As I said in my post on his plea, I suspect Patten will be most useful on Cambridge Analytica, which is where I suspect that will go. I’ve been told by the person responsible for that paragraph in the indictment, they probably got just a snap shot, so not too useful going forward but I can bet CA would find it useful.

      • Kevin Finnerty says:

        Feel free to ignore this question because it relates to your sources. But by “that paragraph in the indictment,” do you mean the Patten indictment out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or the July indictment against Russian hackers by the Special Counsel? If you have a source within the Special Counsel’s Office, that would be…

        • Michelle says:

          GRU indictment. Previous impression was the source was a witness/otherwise familiar with the server, but not FBI/SCO.

        • emptywheel says:

          The paragraph on Hillary’s analytics getting hacked comes, at least in part, from someone I’ve spoken to numerous times about the hack.

        • Tracy says:

          On the CA thread, the reporting of Carole Cadwalladr in the UK is v interesting. I can’t wait till more is publicly unraveled about the CA and Brexit-US election connections; sounds like FBI is on it.

          This interview from w/ NPR on July 29, 2018 links a lot of connections: “The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit has led her to Russian connections and the Trump campaign. She says British investigators are now ‘working very closely with the FBI.'”

          Cadwalladr says:

          “And that investigation – so it’s been going on now for 20 months, and it stepped up when Chris Wiley started talking to them and we started giving them documents and things. And they’ve now got 40 full-time investigators. And we discovered last week that they’re working very closely with the FBI. I mean, this is sort of fascinating because the piece I did last week was about this convergence you can see in some of the things that Mueller is looking at and some of the things that the ICO is looking at.”


          “One of the things we found out about Arron Banks, which I’ve reported on in the last sort of six weeks or so, is this close relationship that we have discovered with the Russian ambassador in London. Now, this is a direct link to the Mueller investigation because the Russian ambassador in London, he’s called Ambassador Yakovenko, and he turned up in the Mueller indictments in November last year. So it was when George Papadopoulos got indicted. And all sorts of meetings and connections and relationships were uncovered in that, which ran through London. And one of the key people he met in London was Ambassador Yakovenko. And Ambassador Yakovenko is described by Mueller as a high-level contact between the Trump campaign in the Kremlin.”

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Crown Prince Jared has Abbe Lowell, who will have told him to shut the fuck up, and he has apparently shut the fuck up. King Stupid both wants Abbe Lowell to do some lawyerin’ for him, based on reports, and will not shut the fuck up.

      • bmaz says:

        Exactly. And this is why the Abbe Lowells of the country not only don’t flock to Trump, but want nothing to do with him and this. I am still perplexed by Flood signing up.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Trump also wants Lowell because Jared has him, for competitive reasons, because he will have already been vetted and become aware of various family business issues, and because Trump – master marketer that he is – is not really good with new people, certainly not when telling them about the family jewels.

        Lowell would probably conclude he has non-waivable conflicts between representing Jared and the Don.  He probably doesn’t want to work for the Don, anyway, then there’s the standard problem of trying to get paid by the Don without a deep discount.

        Oilman Edward Doheny, OTOH, as any good businessman would, overpaid Frank Hogan (founder of Hogan & Hartson, now Hogan Lovells) when he spent over a year keeping Doheny out of the slammer over the Teapot Dome bribery allegations.

        A lawyer would be bound by client confidentiality rules, of course – if she wanted to keep her license – but a good lawyer would refuse to sign one of Trump’s ridiculous NDAs.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Frank Hogan, recognizing his skill and good luck, reportedly said that the ideal client was a rich man who was scared.

          Doheny was scared and rich, for good reason, and compensated Hogan handsomely.  It’s beginning to look like the Don is scared and stupid.

  6. Avattoir says:

    “been told by the person responsible for that paragraph in the indictment…”

    Never too late to make new friends.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      A president taking the 5th is about as prima facie impeachable as it gets. It’s never going to reach that point. (Then again, it may reach that point just to see whether the impeachment clause is vestigial excluding blowjobs.)

      • greengiant says:

        Living in an alternative reality where there will be 67 votes to impeach in the Senate? All for OSC doing it”s job and the resulting maximum pain for Trump. Perhaps at some point Trump will take resignation in exchange for relatives or dollars. Don’t see 67 votes though indicting senators like DOJ indicted representatives may be a path.

  7. gregory abbey says:

    I suspect that when t’s team sees how awful his answers look after tying themselves in knots trying to answer them, that they will come up with some “excuse” and will not submit the answers. Mueller’s team probably has more knowledge of what happened than either t or any of his lawyers because there are so many crooks involved and so many liars, each trying to save his/her own ass — a veritable house of mirrors, an enormous clusterfuck.

    • Thomas Paine says:

      I agree with Greg.

      Strategically, at this stage of the game, Mueller probably has enough direct evidence and testimony from witnesses to draft twenty very specific, pointed questions on Trump’s knowledge of and/or participation in ConFraudUS that will be very hard to answer and will keep Trump and the Flood / Giuliani team busy for months.  Even then, since Trump is known to lie to EVERYONE (including himself), Mueller can prove perjury in the written responses without Flood’s legal team even suspecting it happened beforehand.  Flood has NO IDEA what Mueller knows.  Freaking brilliant move by Mueller’s team, but it will be interesting to see how Trump’s legal team responds.

      For all the complaints about a written questionnaire vs. a face-to-face interview, when the defendant is a known pathological liar, there really isn’t much difference in the probability of perjury.  The written responses will just be harder to obfuscate afterwards.  They will also keep Trump from killing the investigation until after the questionnaire is answered.

      Finally, Mueller always has the option to come back with a follow-up subpoena.

    • JKSF says:

      I agree. Trump will not provide responsive written answers. He will not subject himself to perjury. He will delay and delay with one bogus excuse after another. If he does reply to questions, the answers will be completely unresponsive and obtuse. If Mueller does subpoena him, he will fight it to the bitter end, and then he still won’t comply.

      It was a good move for Mueller to call their bluff, but it will not result in extracting sworn testimony. There is just no way to do so without committing perjury.

      • William Bennett says:

        Thing is, in a written document that has been pored over by a phalanx of high-priced lawyers and staff, it’s gonna be much harder to pull off the old, “Wait, I said ‘would’? I meant ‘wouldn’t.'”

  8. Kansas Watcher says:

    The written question is just a tactic to placate DJT.

    the questions will be tough enough to test his legal staffs loyalty and willingness to cross like lines. Robert M. Lives to catch any law breaker.

    To him DJT  is no bigger or smaller than any other criminal.

    that being said… much of how this ends depends on November elections and Special council knows this.

  9. JKSF says:

    Given the source of this information, can we entertain the possibility that it is simply not true? All we really know is that Team Trump told Maggie (and WaPo) that Mueller has agreed to take written answers. If it’s true, why would they do that? If it is NOT true, why would they do that?

  10. maestro says:

    I am concerned by the possibility that the SCO is waiting too long to present their case in chief. Obviously in a vacuum, they would be able to take as much time as they needed to methodically follow every lead and thread their work uncovers, which is normally expected for an investigation of this size.

    The problem though is that this investigation isn’t happening in a vacuum—it’s happening in a highly charged, politicized environment. There’s every reason to expect that the erratic individual occupying the White House will not sit by forever and let them, in his view, tarnish his presidency.

    Moreover, the longer the SCO operates in secret and only reveals tangential facts, the more emboldened he will become that they don’t pose a threat to him and the more likely Hill Republicans will be to allow him to move against the investigation. As time goes on, they have grown increasingly willing to say publicly that “the investigation should end” and telegraph that they will be willing to allow him to install a loyalist as AG and thereby shut the whole project down. Plus, like it or not, the longer the SCO takes to justify its existence the more likely the public is to view it as a partisan exercise just trying to find dirt on people.

    The only way for the SCO to truly protect itself is to bring their main case and show that what they’re doing is legitimate.

    So I worry that if the SCO lets this whole Trump interview/written questions thing continue to play itself out without showing their hand, they’ll wait too long. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the lame duck period is probably the most dangerous. He’ll feel unconstrained by immediate political consequences and he’ll want to move fast while his allies still control Congress, or conversely if the GOP maintains its majorities he’ll feel as though he paid no electoral penalty and is free to act.

    The bottom line is I don’t think the SCO can afford to wait until after the midterms. If they do, I fear Trump will move first.

    • Richard G says:

      Me too, maestro.

      It’s not just another day in America.  For example, referring to Trump’s tweet about how inconvenient DOJ has been in prosecuting Republicans, today’s NYT editorial says

      “A president with the power to initiate investigations of his opponents and quash investigations of his friends could destroy the rule of law and the ability of our criminal justice system to check corruption forever.”

      Hmmm. Forever.  Surely Mueller’s team is taking the extremely alarming context into consideration.  DOJ’s standard operating procedures about not indicting a president or acting before an election are well-founded I’m sure, but they seem rather paltry in light of what’s happening here.

    • AJNC says:

      I’m sure  Mueller and his team are well aware of all the moving parts and the threats for post election firing and suppressing any report he produces.

      He follows Justice Department rules so either something will drop soon (I don’t think its likely) or it will drop after the elections.

      Hopefully the team is lining up a bunch of detailed, sealed indictments as a DRA/business continuity plan.


    • Tracy says:

      Hey, Maestro, I’m not totally sure – the Mueller investigation has gotten a bump in popularity since the Manafort and Cohen guilty pleas/ convictions, while Trump’s disapproval is at an all-time low, and disapproval for pardons is quite high.

      I feel like citizens who are politically attentive anyway will be focusing a lot on the midterms anyway, not so much counting the days that Mueller goes w/out bringing out a new indictment. I think it could be OK not to come out w/ more indictments before the midterms, especially since the public has been primed by Rudy and literally ALL TV pundits to expect that there is this moratorium in which nothing will happen.

      And people who only marginally pay attention to the news won’t care about any of this anyway, which is frankly a lot of people, since they have more immediate fish to fry.

      I definitely think that the two months after the election will see Trump try to get rid of Sessions, but then so much is up in the air b/t now and then it’s hard to speculate. If Mueller DOES wait (not really a given, I think), I’m sure he’d try to do something straight away come Nov 7th, too.

      Anyway, I used to also worry that Mueller shouldn’t go for so long w/out making a move – but, not sure – I think w/ Woodward’s book out, people seeing Trump more and more as TOTALLY incompetent, and w/ the high stakes of these midterms, it might be OK. :-/

  11. Yette says:

    I keep wondering who is paying for the legal representation of folks like Andrew Miller? By chance, if they are funded through the RNC, does that contribute to charges of obstruction of justice or is that simply the legal process taking its course?

    • bmaz says:

      This is known: Caputo’s legal defense fund is paying for one of Miller’s lawyers, and the conservative National Legal and Policy Center is footing the bill for the other of Miller’s attorneys. 

  12. Drew says:

    @Maestro I share your impatience & anxiety about the country & its politics, but I disagree on your evaluation. By “case in chief” you probably refer to the Trump/Russia conspiracy. That is clearly the biggest, most shocking moment in this all, but Trump’s relationship to Russia & Putin is part of a wider fabric of corruption that entirely engulfs him and has come to largely engulf the entire Republican Party, and truth be told, most of American politics. I mean this concretely, and not just that “they’re all a bunch of cheaters.”

    For instance, the most concerning thing to me is the way in which virtually every cabinet officer is openly participating in corrupt schemes for personal benefit, some petty, some strategic. This is of a piece with their dismantling government and the rule of law. The packing of the judiciary with right-wing nutcases & political hacks is of a piece with this.

    IMHO Trump will be taken down, not by publishing secret love letters between him & Vladimir, but by building cases that convict his associates & him of felonies related to this overall web of corruption, which INCLUDES the election conspiracy. With a sitting president & a complicit Congress, direct indictment & impeachment aren’t feasible in the early stages. They also would run the danger of identifying a systemic problem with one presenting actor. Mueller’s strategy appears to be more broadly encircling the problem–revealing more about a class of bad actors like Manafort, for instance and personal corruption of Trump associates and his business. What protects Mueller is not his hero status, or his superpower Shield of Righteousness, or whatever, but that the investigation/prosecution is spread across a number of offices, which cannot be shut down until the rule of law entirely collapses. Trump can’t stand without his supporting actors or without his business empire, which is mostly ill gotten gains,(perhaps even subject to forfeiture?). At some point push will come to shove–Adam Schiff will be running the House Intel committee, for instance, and certain Big Cowards among the Republicans will get scared, and some kind of deal will be struck. Trump will be gone, and the country will be left to imperfectly pick up the pieces.

    The time that it takes will be the time it takes. In my profession, everybody was expecting the final resolution to come about around1950 years ago, but it still seems to be going on.

    • William Bennett says:

      I’ve been thinking it’s maybe even more “concrete” than that. Such as dark money sources from Russian oligarchs finding its way into various right wing campaigns laundered through various avenues. I doubt the NRA is the only one, just on the principle that if you see one cockroach you know there are plenty more of ’em around. And even the Goopers who are not direct beneficiaries seem to have a sidelong sense it’s going on and how widespread it might be (see Paul Ryan re Dana Rohrabacher). You’ve got a Party dedicated to the philosophy that money is entitled to its own civil rights, whose pet supreme court has ensured that nobody has to know where a guy’s political money came from, and as for moral/ethical qualms, “Heck, if the SCOTUS says it’s ok if nobody knows then why should I have to care, amirite?” I look at their behavior around this whole mess and I can’t help feeling a lot of them know there’s a much bigger house of cards just waiting to fall.

    • maestro says:

      “What protects Mueller is not his hero status, or his superpower Shield of Righteousness, or whatever, but that the investigation/prosecution is spread across a number of offices, which cannot be shut down until the rule of law entirely collapses.”

      I keep seeing people say this but how do we know this is true? Seriously. What’s to stop Trump from saying, “Unitary executive, Article II, you’re all fired and these investigations are done,” and then he sends in a bunch of secret service agents and/or loyal FBI agents or US Marshals to escort everyone from the building(s), seize their documents and computers, and start shredding.

      “But they’re career civil servants, that can’t be fired without cause!”

      Sure, that’s true, and in two years they might win lawsuits to get their jobs back. In the meantime though…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • Tracy says:

        IMHO, it seems like Trump has been convinced to hold off on firing Sessions BEFORE midterms, Mitch McConnell wants NOTHING to get in way of his agenda before midterms, which would include pushing through a few more waves of judges I am sure, and certainly getting Kavanaugh through in the near term – I may be wrong but I think that the GOP seems pretty unified on not having any such distraction pre-midterms.

        After the midterms, all bets are off, and I expect that if (please, God, have mercy on us!) the House and/ [or] Senate changes hands, there will be a massive amount of disruption/ huge bloodbath during the lame duck session which would be the GOP’s and Trump’s last chance of doing anything that they DEFINITELY want to get done to ensure their own legacy and ascendency of power as much as possible.

  13. Avattoir says:

    Some folks here apparently think Mueller can just conjure up a case out of nothing.

    Mueller’s power derives fundamentally from the fact he works in compliance with the Rule of Law. He’s no free agent: he must work within established institutions, laws, rules and prevailing norms.
    Trump’s power derives from the opposite.
    To the extent either chooses to move or compelled off his power base, he will lose.

    Mueller can not create his own context in which to ‘make his move’. Someone who fails to get that likely does not have a firm grasp on the Rule of Law. They’re hardly alone in that fragility: after all, this is the industrial capitalist ‘western’ representative democracy with the least well-educated population, the highest percentage of religious fundamentalists, and the lowest acceptance of science, notably evolution.

    • Peacerme says:

      The only Power Trump has, is coming from the abuse of power. (That is, power not tethered to truth, majority rule, or mainstream consensus). There are people raised with power and control who thoroughly respect his abuse of power because quite simply it “feels” good. People like his dismissal of rules. He’s both “bad boy” and “good boy”. (Its unpredictable, so they bond with him in this unpredictability, it feels like drunk mom or high dad. In that, they must focus intently on Trump and outside of their own feelings in order to be safe. This offers relief from their own lives. That’s why Power and control, authoritarianism, does not produce  predictably raise well adjusted people. There is an escape factor in this emotional codependency. It comes with a buzz and denial. That’s why rational argument does not work. It’s about feelings, and what is masked as freedom. Freedom isn’t free. Real freedom IS personal accountability in conjunction with truth. Dependency is letting someone else make the truth and following them. It’s the secret safety of no accountability that they are unconsciously attracted to. The buzz is the free fall, the buzz is escape from reality.) Those with power and control in their relationships, masquerading for intimacy, enjoy the feeling that maybe they don’t have to obey rules either. In a power and control oriented home, it’s about “not getting caught”, NOT about breaking rules. Trumpsters don’t care if he breaks the rules. The more he shuns the rule of law the more power he has in the eyes of his fandom. He will not lose his power in their eyes until he is powerless. Only then will they turn on him. When they do, some might be even vicious toward him.

      Mueller needs to be tempered by laws. That’s leadership. This a huge disadvantage in the short term, and the optics. It feels powerless because we, those of us not under the escape from reality spell, are tethered. By truth. This appears weak to the the Trumpistas! Trump fans see rules as weak, and changeable. They feel constricted by reality. As long as he has followers he has power. (See Despots of history).  The only solution to our national dilemma will come when Trump is finally powerless. Until then, he is dangerous. We are in danger until he is finally powerless. They will not turn on him until then. He knows this. He’s been using this all along. He does not take his power from truth. He takes his power from creating fear, guilt, and shame and to do this effectively he must have followers.

      Republicans are the real evil doers here. They are colluding with this power as long as Trump does what they want. This is their contract. Give me what I want and I will look the other way. Codependency. Transactional and devoid of truth. When he loses power, only then, will republicans leave his side.

      The truth won’t matter. Only Power will matter. There must be a frogmarch so we can be free.

      • Tracy says:

        Trump will go down kicking and screaming no matter what happens – he has no real ideology apart from that he loves #winners and hates #losers. He will always blame everything on others. He will never accept blame himself, and he will never admit defeat, b/c this would admit to #losing or being a #loser. He would die before he goes down as a loser. And there will always be those in his “base” who will believe his lies and will never, ever leave his side.

        I think if enough people leave him, as happened w/ Nixon, then his GOP will fall on him; if that doesn’t happen then his GOP remains craven and unwilling to stick their neck out for fear of losing their own seats.

        I hope that the evidence is eventually so overwhelming that most people do see Trump for his true colors. I hope he is publicly humiliated, disgraced, and shown to be the huge phony that he is. Moreover, I hope for the veil to drop for most of his MAGA drones to see that he never did one iota for them, and he lied to them with every breath that he took in that stolen seat of his.

    • maestro says:

      I get all that re “norms, rule of law”, etc. That’s all great. The concern I have is that it might not be a workable model for this specific situation. Of course the SCO can’t conjure up a case out of nothing, but I don’t think anyone believes they have nothing. In a perfect world they’d be able to proceed methodically and without interference, but that’s not the world we live in. At some point, you have to make a calculation that measures the threat to their work against the potential benefits of continuing in secret. Up to now the calculus has favored continuing in secret, but it seems pretty damn likely it’s going to change in the near future. So at that point you have to make a political decision.

      People keep saying that the president can’t stop the investigation, that it would keep going even if the SCO was shut down. Would it though? I feel like people who say that are living too much in the past where norms and traditions meant something.

      I hope I’m wrong and nothing happens after November 7, but I fear I’m not. Trump isn’t going to let them just keep going indefinitely.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Typical terrific post. Thanks.

      I’ll add to that that there is a reason Trump is president, he actually is a pretty good representative of many of our worst aspects. A lot of people wish they could be freed from the constraints of their lives, including from the law: the horrible regulations ruining everything for everyone, the paralyzing constraints on police behavior, the wussy whining that military troops should make sure the person they’re killing is an enemy and not a 3-year-old kid, the politically correct feminazis who judge you if say pussy out loud. (The Trump tape was a brilliantly polarizing piece of propaganda.  Those with practiced piety who watch porn all day were polarized internally, confused whether to cockily support the president or pretend they aren’t excited by the word. How much tape does that tv show have of Trump?  How much of it is very very very likely to make Trump look stupid, impulsive, and in other ways unfit to be President.  And this is the clip they chose to release. But I digress.)   Has anyone else here noticed what a high percentage of movies involve our hero finding him/herself in circumstances which “justify” letting go all restraint? The disgusting film Dirty Rotten Bastards is an extended example. Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above.

      Our country is corrupt through and through.  Many people believe that cheating is just part of life and anyone with any ambition will cheat, of course.  And if you’ve had a lot of success, then people assume you’ve cheated at least a little bit.  It’s a depressing state of affairs, and it just might mean that not enough people take treason seriously, that what’s left of our democracy will be over once and for all.

      When all the Trump disaster began, my first suspicion was that the endgame is to get liberals to embrace having our democracy rescued by some form of our intelligence or justice institutions, just taking over from Trump temporarily.  I do believe liberals would embrace that–I saw such a thing proposed hopefully in a comment on this site. But now, in this house of mirrors, I do think organized crime operating globally from within Russia is the real threat. If we are to win, we must hew strictly to the strength of our institutions–to our multi-culturalism, to our engagement in politics, and most especially to the rule of law.

      It’s not just the ignorant in America who have no patience for the rule of law.

  14. Frank Probst says:

    Add me to the chorus of folks saying that written answers aren’t going to happen.  His lawyers aren’t going to be able to turn his word salad into coherent written answers, and anything that they ultimately cobble together will have multiple contradictions and demonstrable falsehoods in it.  It would be judicial malpractice to submit something like that to a prosecutor.  A lawyer may not have to put their signature on it, but the prosecutor is going to assume that someone on the President’s legal team actually read the document before they sent it over.  I can’t imagine that Trump’s legal team wants an e-mail that says “RE:  Did anyone even check this for typos?” and “P.S.  Just so you  know, we know that you didn’t put your signature on this, but the Track Changes function in the Word document says that ‘jaysekulow’ did a lot of the final edits on this.”.

    • Raven Eye says:

      Trump’s team will submit a PDF with the metadata scrubbed.  (The same way contractors prefer to send deliverables to the government.)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A document scrubbed of metadata is what any competent professional would submit.  It would be malpractice not to delete metadata that could be deleted.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, heh, yeah that is not how it works. A competent lawyer doesn’t really care about Trump’s word salad. They will craft the answers and make Trump either sign it formally, or get a written declaration from him that the answers are true and correct. Frankly, I would make him personally sign it with a notary, like is often entailed in Rule 26 submissions.

  15. JP says:

    Are the answers to be explicitly sworn testimony – so that perjury can be charged if lies are proven?

    And will it be stipulated that the answers – even if written by lawyers rather than Trump – that the answers will be taken as Trump’s personal answers?

  16. Someguy says:

    For the moment, I’m not going to say what I think this means (I’ve got some ideas, but will hold those for now).

    1) ARRGH!! You’re killing me!

    2) Lots of reasons for offering to accept partial written responses, as others have noted.  One I haven’t seen is that it’s a way to drag things out but make it seem as if progress is being made toward wrapping this up.  In other words, it gives Trump/Rudy something to grab onto as a sign that they may be able to get this done by providing written responses and thereby end it without having to fire Mueller, which I think on some level they must know would be a bad move, at least if they think they can end the investigation some other way.  So Mueller says hey, let’s put obstruction aside, just answer these written questions for me.  Mueller probably doesn’t need the answers, but whatever they are, they are guaranteed not to help Trump.  Either he lies compared to info Mueller already has, or he says virtually nothing because his answers are massaged so much by his lawyers as to be meaningless.  Meanwhile, Mueller goes on with his investigation.

  17. Valley girl says:

    Following on from issues raised by Frank Probst and JP above, what are the rules/ constraints here in answering the written questions?  Or to put it another way, what would be the instructions given to Trump (and lawyers, I assume)?  Is there a standard format laid out for all similar requests, or it case-by-case?

    I assume the answers would be submitted  in type-written form, though I think it would be revealing (if only for amusement) to see Trump’s  answers in his own hand-writing.

    To what extent are Trump’s lawyers allowed to tell Trump what to write, word by word?  Seems like a tough challenge to replicate Trump’s bizarre use of language.  Or, is there some kind of instruction such as “your answers must be written by you, and only you”?  Course I assume that Trump’s lawyers can advise him such as “no, don’t say that”.   Can they expand- “no, don’t say that, because it’s a lie?.

    Is Trump required to sign the submission with some avowal of the truthfulness of his answers?

    IANAL, and I hope someone here gets the drift* of my questions, and can help me out.  *I could have come up with more questions, but couldn’t see the point of that, because my ignorance/ lack of knowledge should be well apparent by now.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The short answer is that his lawyers would draft every answer, word by word, but that they would be submitted only if and when and insofar as Trump adopts and ratifies those answers – word for word – as his own.

      • Valley girl says:

        Thanks!  Methinks that it will be quite a challenge to mimic Trump speech.  Just imho.

        re: “….insofar as Trump adopts and ratifies those answers – word for word – as his own.”  How and when would that be done?  When the document is submitted?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Trump or his handlers might want answers translated into Trumpspeak, but it wouldn’t be necessary.  Legalese would be fine.

          He would ratify by signing an original for the preparers’ records. He would sign a duplicate original for submission to Mueller.

  18. manymusings says:

    Has anyone on this thread practiced law, let alone litigation, let alone prosecution?

    It’s delusional to think a proposal for a written interview (even as an “initial” step) signals anything but weakness. All of the speculation on here about Trump getting trapped in a damaging lie-or-look-evasive-or-be-exposed scenario is completely detached from how these things work.

    If Mueller actually were closing in on conspiracy this is the last thing he’d do. Giving a subject or target written questions only provides valuable information to *them* about what the prosecution might have and gives them a chance to get their story straight. And he won’t get to hover over the pen to get the sorts of answers he wants. If you think Trump loses *anything* — politically or legally — by providing the same sort of well-lawyered non-answer-answers that anyone in his position would provide, you’re drinking your own kool aid. All the more so if Mueller has all these indictments and witnesses lined up to frame the picture of conspiracy. A strong hand doesn’t start making concessions that only help the target — even when the target is a president (likely especially when the target is a president). If it’s actually true that written questions is where this is headed (“for now”), what it suggests is that the investigation is essentially over and Mueller has nothing remarkable.

    But carry on. We’ll all find out one way or another.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m letting this through for the lawyers in the thread to answer.

      However, this is your second registration, this one under a different email account from the one you last used in January. Please make note of your password and email used this time at this site and use it for future logins.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your opening question is rather like Billy Ray Valentine asking whether there is a lawyer among the members of Randolph and Mortimer Duke’s Heritage Club.  But, carry on.

      If whomever is currently representing Donald Trump hasn’t long figured out what information or strategy the questions and answers might reveal, they aren’t proficient enough to work for any president.  A non-lawyer could figure those things out by reading this blog more thoroughly.

      The process would be far from ideal; it would produce limited information.  But that information would be directly from Mr. Trump – albeit laundered by his lawyers – and submitted under oath.

      Mr. Mueller’s team would immediately know where the answers were deficient, and give them a road map about what Trump might be hiding.  They would give up nothing to get it.

  19. RWood says:

    What is the end goal of all this?

    Obviously, Trump is unfit for office and should be removed. Whatever reason is used to accomplish this is a mental exercise I watch play out here at EW, but I keep going back to that question.

    We seem to have “Prevention of damage to the United States” on one side of the scale being weighed against “Prosecution for crimes against the United States” on the other.

    In short; Time vs Damage.

    If the SC manages to build an ironclad case that results in not only the removal of Trump from the oval office, but the incarceration of him and his ilk as well, what good does it do if that happens in October of 2020? By that time the maximum amount of damage has already been done. Yes, Mueller will have accomplished his goal, but its on par with Trump losing the next election. He’ll be gone either way, but the damage will remain.

    With Time vs Damage in mind, does it not make more sense to bring about the end of Trump Inc. as soon as possible? I’m all for bringing down the Manafort’s and Stone’s and Kushner’s involved, but they cannot and are not inflicting the damage that Trump is every day. If Mueller has the ammunition, and the target is well within range, what is the advantage of prolonging the fight? Caution has its place, but not if it results in the daily losses we seem to have grown numb to.

    So I have to ask, is the end-goal an ironclad case against Trump, or is it minimizing the damage he is inflicting? At what point does the balance tip from one to the other?

    • Tracy says:

      I think that the siphoning off of different investigations into lots of different areas is a great strategy, any one of which could bear fruit first. The lawyers on here may have opinions as to which that we’ve already seen (I guess it’s hard to say about those which have not come to light yet) could be most perilous for Trump and klan.

    • Rayne says:

      We are a nation of laws; we have been looking at the exercise of our laws. The aim of the Special Counsel’s Office isn’t the removal of the president. though its findings could spur impeachment as could other DOJ investigations.

      If the people want to remove the president without first having allowed the SCO and other DOJ investigations to run their course, we could pursue either 25th Amendment removal or impeachment and removal for high crimes and misdemeanors after presenting a bill of particulars. Neither are particularly rapid as they depend on the commitment of the persons appointed by Trump or GOP members of Congress to begin* removal. We’d also need a simple majority for impeachment in the House, 2/3rds majority in the Senate for removal, or “Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments” (Sect 4, 25th Amendment) willing to formally notify Congress of Trump’s incapacity and a simple majority vote in both houses.

      A more rapid method may not be legal though possible. There may be something classified in executive orders about succession but it may not be legal, relying instead on the seizure of unilateral executive power in what might be considered an emergency. Gods help us all.

      (*Edited – dumped some crap from my cache in their by accident. Also tweaked rest for clarity.)

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Time vs Damage.

      Legitimate concern.

      But the damage has been decades in the making.

      Trump is just a puppet. Must bust the puppetmasters.

      But, I agree, something soon (Hint: by Friday), would help to slow down the damage.

      If Kavanaugh gets in, massive damage likely would occur for quite some time.

  20. manymusings says:

    It looks like I can’t reply to anything.

    earlofhuntingdon: if it were the case that written questions would reveal “deficient” answers and what Trump “might be hiding” while “giving up nothing to get it” then Mueller would have agreed to that long ago, b/c the Trump camp has been explicitly or implicitly offering it. The comment that Trump’s lawyers are incompetent if they don’t know what Mueller has reveals lack or misunderstanding of how investigations (and interviews) proceed. The goal of an investigation is to keep potential evidence secret, and to use live, in-person questioning that leverages the dissymmetry of information. Questions inherently provide a window into what the prosecutor has and knows. Handing over a set of written questions truly is a take-home, open-book exam. There are no “deficient” answers — the whole written response will be defensive and minimal, typical legalese that will be essentially useless for Mueller. But my overall point (which I don’t think this response refutes) is that conceding to a written interview is a sign of weakness, not strength in the case.

    RWood: “Obviously, Trump is unfit for office and should be removed.” Was the election legitimate? Or is the premise that the election was not legitimate? Does it matter in considering how Trump “should be removed”?

    Rayne: “We are a nation of laws; […] A more rapid method may not be legal though possible. There may be something classified in executive orders about succession but it may not be legal, relying instead on the seizure of unilateral executive power in what might be considered an emergency.”

    Honestly not sure what this means. How is a method not legal but still possible? How does that reconcile with being a nation of laws?

    I am coming from the perspective that what we do now can be done w/r/t *any president* and the people taking aim, and reasons they rely on, may not be ones that seem obviously correct and just. Are we are a nation of laws? Or are there times the strict requirements of law must be suspended? Who decides when it’s an “emergency”? What if it’s the same folks who lost the election that call it an emergency? How does that serve the cause of the rule of law?

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      I don’t agree with you that the exercise is useless.  If Mueller has ironclad proof of Trump’s guilt, then the political dimension alone is enough justification for an exercise that demonstrates that Trump has no adequate response to the questions being put.

      You say that agreeing to this is a sign of weakness, implying that Muller’s case must be weak.  In fact, Mueller is in a position of weakness in one respect alone–that he is dealing with a person who has the power to pardon anyone for anything, a person who can name the head of the FBI, a person who can start wars, etc.  Yeah, you’re right, someone coming after the POTUS legally is in a position of weakness. Duh. But agreeing to written responses does not indicate weakness in any other area than that Trump occupies a position of enormous power.

    • Rayne says:

      How is a method not legal but still possible?

      There’s a method I can think of, possible but not legal, which would wrest control from the junta running the U.S. I don’t know that we’d still be the same country after it began, no longer the same nation of laws.

      I don’t even want to go further into that train of thought. It’s already challenging to think we may be de facto occupied since we aren’t currently helmed by a Constitutionally-defined leadership.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You’re comments throw around a lot of “misunderstandings”.  Making an argument instead of a characterization would go farther.

      Trump’s lawyers have been offering nothing, nada.  Their collective actions, not simply Giuliani’s theater of the absurd, have been political theater.  They have been meant to distract the president and the public from the obvious threat Trump poses to himself and to the GOP were he to sit for an interview with or answer written questions from Mueller.

      The normal dynamic you describe applies less in this intensely political and theatrical circumstance, where most of Trump’s lawyering is designed to work the refs and to avoid real legal process.

      A list of poorly drafted questions, for example, might reveal a prosecutor’s strategy and intent, as would a list of poorly drawn questions in a psych evaluation.  At this level, however, they are rarely poorly drawn.

      Most of the questions are by now obvious.  Both sides know what questions and answers Mueller has and wants, just as they know what answers Trump would be loathe to give.  Mueller has testimony from many others, which is what will tell Mueller where Trump’s answers are deficient or lies.

      What weakness is this you speak of?  It is not in Mueller’s legal case or procedure.  It is a mature acknowledgement that this case is unprecedented and political: the mad child-king can pardon and fire until his tantrums cool to lethargy, the bedroom, and the Big Mac.

      More importantly, it is a recognition that the GOP, for its own perverse reasons, backs Trump to a man, regardless of how risky or irresponsible his behavior, which forecloses the usual political options available to remove an incompetent president.

      Trump should be removed.  His campaign and his election were illegitimate, which also taints Mike Pence.  His closest advisers admit he is infantile, functionally illiterate, incapable of distinguishing between public and private responsibilities, and incapable of carrying out either.

      No one here misses that any action taken with regard to Trump would assuredly be used by Republicans against a Democratic president, in all likelihood, without merit, even for a blow job instead of compromising behavior with a foreign adversary.

      That’s one more reason to fear a Roberts court, buttressed with Brett, who is as determined to replace Roberts as he is to obtain his seat on the Court, and to make the Court and American law his own.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Precisely. I wish I could have said it so well.

        One could argue that we the people are in a position of weakness in this dangerous time. Such a statement would be helpful to the Russian campaign of demoralization. Perhaps we should just hoist the white flag and get it over with. But one could also say that our justice system, while disturbingly screwed up, is a juggernaut. And from the looks of things, it’s the conspirators who are scrambling for cover while we the people are preparing to come out in numbers enough to swamp any cheating, or at least make it obvious.  “You are in a position of weakness,” is a typical Trump fear-based, bullying projection, the kind of thing Guiliani might say.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Another reason Trump should be removed from office is that he confuses disloyalty to his person with disloyalty to the presidency and treason against the United States.

        He has that confusion about everything.  But it’s easy to see why anyone would refuse to work with this president – owing to his disregard for government, the laws that it promulgates, and its institutions and processes.

        It is harder to see why someone would work with Trump, then usurp his authority for their own ends, and then claim that those ends – pursued in the shadows – serve a public purpose.

      • Greenhouse says:

        “until his tantrums cool to lethargy, the bedroom, and the Big Mac” purely exquisite, delicious poetry EOH…yum!

    • Kick the darkness says:

      The goal of an investigation is to keep potential evidence secret, and to use live, in-person questioning that leverages the dissymmetry of information.

      Asymmetry perhaps?  Not a lawyer, but it seems an equally likely possibility is that the investigation has proceeded to a point where Mueller’s geometry is focused on non-complements and incongruities.  Who knows, with a good finesse he could take all the tricks.

  21. Hurltim says:

    RE: Written Repsponses To Mueller’s Questions:
    Trump has a proven history of lying to his attorneys. Any lawyer crafted response to a question from Mueller will be based on either incomplete evidence or The Cheeto in Chief’s word. It is very reasonable to assume Mueller may wind up with a well crafted, written perjury admission.
    I don’t think Mueller or Rosenstein are willing to push the envelope and subpoena Trump if he refuses to sit for an interview. However, having some well written perjury admissions might be a good basis for a subpoena.
    Just a Thought.

  22. Tom says:

    The President’s physical health doesn’t seem to receive much attention, but I keep thinking of the fact that we have a 72-year-old man, clinically obese, who subsists on fast food and gets a minimal amount of exercise.   He doesn’t smoke or drink, or so I understand, but the aforementioned factors, combined with the steadily increasing stress he must be under, leads me to think he must be a prime candidate for a heart attack or stroke.    One plausible way for the current Presidency to end is with Trump being rushed to hospital after collapsing on the golf course.

  23. manymusings says:

    Hurltim, earlofhuntingdon: thanks for the responses. The argument I’m making is that while I think we all agree (because we have limited information) that it’s hard to infer the meaning or significance of Mueller (possibly) agreeing to a written interview of Trump — I see it as likely a bad sign w/r/t potential evidence/charges against Trump, not a good sign. And that is because I see a written interview as a practically useless tool, and therefore a tool a prosecutor would agree to only if they see their case as weak, or the political/public posture as weak, or both. The chances of a president winding up trapped in a perjury pickle from written responses is slim to nil. Remember, he can object or effectively duck any question.

    I also don’t know that having the topic limited to conspiracy supports an inference about the viability of evidence on conspiracy one way or another. This is because team Trump is drawing a bright line on answering anything about obstruction, so conspiracy is all that’s left (so it’s not that Mueller has zeroed in on it necessarily — it’s that the other topic, whether over-hyped or not, has been taken off the table). I also read conventional Congressional republicans differently. They’ve basically stayed out of the fray (i.e., the freedom caucus counter-attack) to the extent they can, and I think there’s good reason to think that if they thought Mueller had the goods, Ryan and McConnell would be working their caucuses to see how to end up with President Pence.

    I’m not trying to take Trump’s side. I’m just trying to stick with what we actually know, and what are reasonable assumptions about the status of a prosecution based on what limited information we have, and what these sorts of steps tend to mean.

    Who knows, at this point the whole written interview thing may be moot (maybe someone’s trial balloon). But if Mueller and team Trump truly are “negotiating” to avoid a subpoena fight, I think we can assume that whatever scope/form of interview Trump agrees to, his bottom line is one bite at the apple. Otherwise, why agree at all? Trump’s lawyers have been pretty clear Trump will only do it in an “endgame” scenario, as in guarantees that this is it, not “wait and see.” I know this assessment cuts against where folks see this investigation heading — but from what you know of Trump, does it really seem likely he’d agree to something potentially harmful if he doesn’t have to, with no guarantees? He has no incentive to do that. Isn’t it more likely that either there’s no real risk to Trump in written responses, or there’s a promise of finality, or both?

    • bmaz says:

      Meh, you are still full of it. And “perjury pickle” has nothing to do with anything. You keep clamoring that this is a “sign of weakness”. Bollocks. It just just as easily, and far more likely, be a sign of strength that Mueller doesn’t need Trump and is just toying with him and Giuliani.

    • Rayne says:

      RE: Witness interview or statement from Trump to Special Counsel’s Office — Trump giving anything to the SCO puts him at risk of an unforced error. He’s less likely to do so with a written statement vetted by his personal attorneys than if he sits for an interview. Just read a transcript from ANY public speaking Trump has done — it’s loaded with fabrications, half-truths, utter nonsense. Don’t take my word for it; comb through Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale’s Twitter timeline. He’s done the work of tracking how many lies Trump tells as well as documenting Trump’s public speaking. I think we’ve covered this enough here; there’s plenty of other publicly available resources which outline Trump’s risks.

      RE: GOP Congressional leadership — This is naive.

      …I also read conventional Congressional republicans differently. They’ve basically stayed out of the fray (i.e., the freedom caucus counter-attack) to the extent they can, and I think there’s good reason to think that if they thought Mueller had the goods, Ryan and McConnell would be working their caucuses to see how to end up with President Pence.

      No. They do not want to open the door to any more investigation necessary to work toward impeachment and removal. They want to drag their feet as much as they can to run out the clock. They are wholly complicit in the conspiracy to defraud the U.S.; note carefully how little ruckus they raised about being hacked by Russia. Note, too, Ryan’s admonition to Kevin McCarthy recorded by an attendee to be quiet about McCarthy’s opinion both Rep. Rohrabacher and Trump were bought by Russia — he invoked omerta for their “family.”

      Why are they footdragging? If I have to guess it’s one of these three scenarios:
      — They believe whatever techniques have been used in the past and new ones we don’t yet know about will be implemented to suppress enough of the vote. After the election they will upend the Constitution.
      — They believe the blue wave may take the House but not the Senate. The House could impeach but it can’t remove the president, only the Senate can. And they can then stall any effort by a Democratic majority in the House, frustrating efforts to take the White House in 2020.
      — They believe Trump (or his handlers) will pull off a Kristallnacht-like event before the mid-terms, invoking a state of emergency which favors their continued domination of political process.

      Now snap out of it. Be more suspicious, less credulous. We are and have been in a state of constitutional crisis. Just because the lights continue to flip on and the gas continues to flow at the pump doesn’t mean they haven’t been building camps for detainees.

      Because they have. And they are.

      • Helen Tansey says:

        Rayne, you wrote “Now snap out of it. Be more suspicious, less credulous. We are and have been in a state of constitutional crisis. Just because the lights continue to flip on and the gas continues to flow at the pump doesn’t mean they haven’t been building camps for detainees. Because they have. And they are.”

        I’m assuming the latter part of your comment about ‘building camps  for detainees’ means to imply they are camps for American detainees who refuse to comply with the President’s mandates and not for illegal immigrant children/families both of your links state.

        If my assumption is correct let me assure you that this kind of fear porn was given birth during the eight years under Obama’s leadership. One couldn’t spend an hour reading comments on conservative blogs without scanning over dozens of such posters suggesting such camps. The fear grew larger and larger every time the O team purchased gobs of ammo and guns for agencies like HUD, EPA, Dept of Education, etc., not to forget the Indefinite Detention EO. I’m thinking few who visit emptywheel venture onto conservative blogs but trust folks were petrified of such a fate for eight very long years.

        Of course, as we all know, no such camps to house Americans ever materialized then, just like no such act is going to happen now. I more than realize how divided we are as a citizenry today, but I feel pretty certain that if such an act transpired Americans would rise up together, including all of us folks many here seem to dislike, a lot, to take immediate action to thwart, cease or destroy such an UnAmerican act of pure cowardice. Maybe it’s naive on my part to think/believe this way, but I believe wholeheartedly we’re ALL Americans first with party landing at a low 3 or 4 and for most not even registering on a scale.

        I apologize to you in advance if my take on the latter part of your comment is wrong. But I’m seeing comments like this on left leaning blogs more and more and wanted to weigh in.


        Marcy – I realize you likely have no use whatsoever to keep up with anything related to the dossier crud, but if you were so inclined, I might suggest you listen to the last few days of Sara Carter’s reports on Hannity radio. I know. It’s blasphemy and who listens to such a heathen. But her reporting this week on Weissman and his connection to Ohr back in 2016 is going to start getting legs, at least in conservative media. And as it gets legs, it will have a direct impact on the special counsel and his work product.

        • Rayne says:

          Oh stop. Really. They’ve been detaining American citizens who are brown. This administration’s not recognizing birth certificates issued along the border. And the concern about camps used as a means to corral non-white persons goes back to post-Katrina when Bush administration’s deliberate negligence in re-homing NOLA citizens changed its demographics.

          Of course some Americans don’t have to be sent to camps. They can just die in the privacy of their own homes.

          You know who’s not worried about camps being used to detain Americans? They have something in common.

          Those same people don’t worry about getting stopped while driving home after church, either.

          Wake the fuck up. Bring a better game, first timer.

        • Helen Tansey says:

          Rayne, your angry reaction to my comment is precisely why so many choose not to post here, but rather just read Marcy’s hard work. No one posts in the hopes of being bludgeoned. My comment only related to eight years of reading camp fears from the right side of the aisle. Nothing more. Don’t expand on my observation. I didn’t say anything about the travesty in NOLA nor do I wish too b/c it has nothing to do with my point. It wasn’t an essay or research paper. Just an observation I wished to share about reading the same fear porn for eight years on conservative sites. That’s it. Nothing more.


          Last timer

          [Buh-bye. Don’t let the door hit you./~Rayne]

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t think you are in any position to talk about “fear porn” having seen the site at which you’ve posted.

          Buh-bye. Don’t let the door hit you.

          EDIT: I’m going to add this for any first timers who may read this or those who may sympathize with Helen Tansey. Trollish behavior includes policing contributors’ language — do NOT show up and demand a specific kind of thinking and writing. If you don’t like it, rebut the ideas with facts OR move on.

        • bmaz says:

          What in the living fuck in the world???

          Yes, sure, the people that curate and inhabit this blog should pay attention to some batshit crazery from Sarah Carter.

          Un hum.

      • manymusings says:

        “Be less credulous. More suspicious.”

        I’ll take that under advisement.

        You all seem to have everything figured out.

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