Trump Won’t Hand in His Open Book Test Until He Checks His Answers with Matt Whitaker and Putin

Rudy is working the press today (CNN, Politico), describing how the President’s advisors are trying to decide whether to hand in the open book test Mueller gave him back in October. He says he’s pretty sure that his client will get a 90% grade on his open book test.

“The questions they gave us, if they don’t know the answer to 90 percent of them now, I’d be shocked,” Giuliani said. “I guess the only thing I can do is, if they get his answers — if that’s what happens — is they’re going to check it against what they thought his answers were going to be, and I think it’s going to come out almost 100 percent.”

But his client is not going to turn in his open book test until he returns from Paris and thinks about it for a day.

A meeting with Trump to make a final decision on the first round of questions is expected soon after the president returns Sunday night from his trip to Paris for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Guiliani said.

“We’re close,” Giuliani said. “I think the only thing that throws us off a little, which we explained to [Mueller], is that the president’s going to be away for about three, four days.”

“So, before we make a final decision — which I’m not sure I could tell you what that is, although I think we have an idea right now — but before we can make it, we really want the president to have a day home where he can just think about it, make sure he’s comfortable with it and then we’ll tell [Mueller] what the decision is,” the president’s lawyer added.

Of course, by the time this happens, Matt Whitaker will presumably have been briefed on the investigation — a briefing the contents of which he can share with Trump. And, depending on whether you think the Kremlin or the White House is a better source on these things, Trump will also have met with Vladimir Putin for lunch on Sunday.

As a reminder: The Watergate special prosecutor did not have to, and did not, wait for Nixon’s answers before he dropped the big conspiracy indictment. I’m not sure Mueller will, either. Indeed, I think it at least possible that this year long process of negotiating with Rudy and others about Trump questions has been a ploy to buy time, working Rudy’s mistaken assumption that Mueller thinks he needs Trump’s answers.

So all Rudy’s spinning about this open book test may actually be hurting his client.

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21 replies
  1. obsessed says:

    >Indeed, I think it at least possible that this year long process of negotiating with Rudy and others about Trump questions has been a ploy to buy time, working Rudy’s mistaken assumption that Mueller thinks he needs Trump’s answers.

    Now there’s a wicked thought!

    Question: Is there a logistical or GJ-related reason for so many Mueller actions to come on Fridays?

    • Drew says:

      I think the Grand Jury meets only on either Friday mornings (or on Thursdays). Most Grand Juries only meet for a limited time each week (or sometimes less frequently) because they are civilians who are empaneled for a period of months or more.

      So besides given the interesting news cycle drama of Fridays (sometimes after 5 on Fridays) they are actually responding to GJ actions most of the time.

    • Peterr says:

      Grand juries do not operate like trial juries. A trial jury meets every day that the court is in session to hear the arguments and evidence, and then every day until they return a verdict (or the court accepts that they cannot agree). Trial court jurors serve only on a single case, and when it’s done, so are they.

      A federal grand jury meets on a much more limited time frame – once a week, a couple of times a month, etc. — but jurors serve for several months and can work on multiple cases over the course of their tenure. Marcy can check me on this, but I think Mueller’s grand jury only sits on Fridays, so that’s why that day of the week figures prominently in the courtroom timelines.

  2. J R in WV says:

    End of the Jury’s work week, so the work (indictments) they have done can be turned over the the headmaster/judge. IANAL – thus just spitballing.

  3. J R in WV says:

    I’ve seen a report that DAG Rosenstein is in court in DC right now, with his personal lawyer. Hypothesis is that he’s there to ask the judge to declare the new acting AG is not legally able to be the AG, even acting… hmmm.

  4. GusGus says:

    “Indeed, I think it at least possible that this year long process of negotiating with Rudy and others about Trump questions has been a ploy to buy time, working Rudy’s mistaken assumption that Mueller thinks he needs Trump’s answers.”

    I think that you are spot on here. Mueller does not need Trump’s testimony for anything other than a perjury charge. If Mueller has the goods on ConFraudUS, there is no need to get Trump on the record. He could just let the indictments fly.

  5. Thomas says:

    This sounds an awful lot like a prediction that, if there’s a big conspiracy indictment coming, it will come tomorrow.

    Like others, I struggle to see how this isn’t the endgame. Clearly this move was planned long in advance. I think Whittaker exists as a cat’s paw – his job is to wreck the Mueller probe, either by impeding it, leaking information about it to Trump, or directly firing Mueller – as the fall guy in the days before a new AG is confirmed. There’s no reason for Trump to delay this effort to obstruct the probe until after the Democratic Congress takes its seats in January.

    If Mueller indicts a whole bunch of people, Whittaker/Trump will surely move to call it prosecutorial overreach and fire him. There are likely, in Trump’s mind, no consequences for doing so. Perhaps when Corker, Flake, Collins, Murkowski, and a pre-Manchurian Candidate Graham were threatening to side with the Dems on this one and give the pro-Mueller Senate caucus a majority, and the midterms loomed, there was a political reason not to nakedly obstruct justice as he has evidently been itching to do since the start. That’s gone now.

    Yet Mueller evidently has not completed his investigation – still waiting on Stone-related GJ testimony and various bits + pieces that have not yet come in. If you’re Mueller, difficult to know whether to stick or twist, but he has a decision to make: try to force the issue now, or preserve everything and be reactive rather than proactive, hoping the investigation can continue and if not that House Judiciary/Intelligence will pick up the torch?

  6. Kevin Finnerty says:

    The big question in my mind right now is whether we’ll ever get to see a conspiracy indictment. The fear, of course, is that Mueller was going to secure it tomorrow and now will be blocked by Whitaker. The hope is that it’s already under seal.

    Someone on the lawfare podcast said he would look for resignations as a sign of what is happening internally. At this point, there aren’t any. There also aren’t many leaks from DOJ one way or another. Like Marcy has said, we don’t even know if Whitaker has been briefed. As far as I know, the only reporting so far today was sourced to associates close to Whitaker who said the acting AG categorically ruled out issuing a subpoena for Trump.

    I do wonder if tomorrow instead of an indictment, we will instead get a notification to Congress that Whitaker has disapproved of one of Mueller’s proposed actions.

     

    • BobCon says:

      I think a lot depends on what, exactly, Mueller has on the whole sordid crew. The more evidence he has, the more serious the crime(s), the more people he can charge, and the more crimes he details, the harder it is for Trump loyalists and conservative judges to shut it down.

      If Mueller details a limited conspiracy with a few people for a limited subset of emails, I think it’s fairly easy for the loyalists to shut things down. But the bigger the case, the harder that is to achieve, and the bigger the risk to individual players to go along.

      Two things hint that there is a lot of meat on the bone. One is that Mueller has been very busy with a very powerful team. Another is that if shutting this down was simple, Trump probably would have done it already. But I don’t have anything more to go on besides this.

    • Kevin Finnerty says:

      Also, as far as baseless speculation goes, I would not be surprised if Whitaker appointed a second special counsel to investigate HRC.

  7. Michael says:

    My pipe dream:
    Robert Mueller was never interested in seeing the Precedent’s open-book test. The plan was to give Li’l Don and 9/11 Julie some “important” homework, and WH lawyers tons of billable hours. “Oh yeah … the Q&A. You can keep it.”

  8. pseudonymous in nc says:

    If you assume that King Idiot will be Person-1 in any indictments as opposed to the subject of them, then the open book test is neither here nor there other than as an indication of his willingness to complete the open book test. Rudy got one thing right: “The questions they gave us, if they don’t know the answer to 90 percent of them now, I’d be shocked.”

    I’d like to think it’s like the old joke: how do you keep a corrupt wannabe despot in suspense?

    […]

    Tell you tomorrow.

  9. Thomas says:

    Rudy Guiliani was right up there at the top of the 2016 campaign.

    Huh.

    Now he is taking trips to Russia.

  10. Tracy says:

    So Trump is tromping off to get his next round of marching orders from Vlad?… Shesh…!!

    What timing! It never fails…

  11. Eureka says:

    I’m having some deja vu. Though a couple of details are out of order or changed, the arc is the same. It benefits this president to be on foreign soil when Mueller indictments drop and Putin is later at his side.

    I’m not one who has been counting on indictments today, but I just got that feeling… facilitated by Rudy’s word salads and acknowledgement that the test will not fully match, I might add. Why is Trump going to need to rest, get perspective, and think about his test?

    ADD: Well I guess in the movies, the guy always has a last hurrah road trip. So maybe it’s just that, and unrelated to any expected Mueller actions.

    • Eureka says:

      Clarifying:

      It benefits this president to be on foreign soil when Mueller indictments drop and Putin is later at his side.

      Meaning Dad can help lead messaging, among other pro-tips.

      ————

      I think I’ve been luxuriating in too much election porn.

      • Eureka says:

        1- Maybe the take home exam has a practicum, and this Helsinki-aftermath-planned trip got added to the show-your-work portion.

         

        2- the election is not over.

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