When Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney asked a judge on Friday to rule on whether he has to honor a subpoena to testify to the House impeachment inquiry, we interpreted it as a ham fisted attempt at getting the courts to set a precedent that could discourage John Bolton from testifying. Now it turns out there may be something else going on entirely.
John Bolton’s longtime sidekick Charles Kupperman recently initiated a court case asking whether he should testify to the House impeachment inquiry. But the judge in that case didn’t seem inclined to rule swiftly enough for the result to matter one way or the other, and so the House decided to withdraw the Kupperman subpoena and move on. Bolton now says he’ll rely on a separate but similar court case currently being fought over Don McGahn’s testimony, which is in front of a different judge and is likely to be resolved sooner.
This brings us back to Mick Mulvaney, who on Friday decided to challenge his own House impeachment subpoena in court. But instead of joining the active McGahn court case, he curiously entered his name into the dormant Kupperman case. Palmer Report took that as a sign that perhaps Mulvaney was simply trying to muddy the waters by making sure there were two active court cases, and that maybe one of them would result in a ruling that would end up convincing Bolton not to testify.
But the New York Times sees it differently. It’s making the case that Mulvaney may be doing this for reasons of self-interest, because he feels like he has to protect himself as Trump’s “dysfunctional” White House falls apart and the “long knives are coming out.” It may be possible that Mulvaney is indeed selfishly trying to get the courts to rule that he doesn’t have to testify, so that he can’t be criminally indicted for obstruction of justice after Trump is gone. Of course Mulvaney will eventually be indicted on far more serious crimes in the Ukraine scandal, but obstruction would be the easiest charge to prove, and thus the charge that’s most certain to land him in prison.
Take your pick, really. Mick Mulvaney could be going into court in a loyal but nonsensical attempt at trying to help Donald Trump by trying to steer John Bolton away from delivering what would be devastating testimony, in a last ditch attempt at convincing Trump to return the favor by pardoning him. Or maybe Mulvaney saw the headlines over the past few days about Trump’s House GOP allies using Mulvaney as a scapegoat, and he remembered that Trump is never loyal to anyone – and he figured out that a magic Trump pardon is never coming, so he’s trying to protect himself.
In any case, Politico says that Mick Mulvaney’s decision to enter the court case has resulted in the judge holding a hearing tomorrow. It’ll be oddly fitting if Mulvaney’s high profile entrance into the case ends up resulting in this judge ruling that he must testify – and ruling more swiftly than the McGahn judge – which would result in Bolton testifying sooner than he otherwise would have.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report