With all the noise and bombast that he and his team have been generating lately, one might be tempted to think Donald Trump is on the offensive when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation. He’s firing people for the mere sin of being witnesses against him, taking their pensions away, tweeting veiled threats at everyone involved. In a well timed reminder today, Trump’s own attorneys have acknowledged that when it comes to dealing with Robert Mueller, Trump’s side is not holding any cards at all.
This weekend we saw one of Trump’s lawyers beating his chest on national television and demanding that the entire Trump-Russia investigation come to an end. But behind the scenes, Trump’s legal team is playing a very different game. They’ve been desperately trying to find a way to prevent Trump from being interviewed by Mueller, because they know that depending on whichever unhinged mood he’s in that day, he’ll either get caught perjuring himself, or just braggingly confess to the entire thing.
If Trump formally declines to be interviewed, Mueller can have the courts compel his testimony, which would force Trump to take the politically devastating move of pleading the fifth. So Trump’s team has been trying different approaches this month aimed at insulating Trump from his own mouth. The trouble, of course, is that Trump’s lawyers know they have no leverage. First they asked that the interview be in writing. That went nowhere, beyond Mueller’s probe presumably being delayed for a few minutes while he finished laughing. Now they’re taking a more desperate approach.
Donald Trump’s lawyers are now giving Robert Mueller relevant documents about the Trump-Russia scandal, in the hope it’ll prompt Mueller to agree to limit the scope of the interview, according to the Washington Post (link). In other words, they’re now handing Mueller the evidence he wants, in the feeble hope he might throw them a scrap in return, which he probably won’t. That’s how weak of a hand Trump is playing here, no matter how loudly he may be suggesting otherwise in public.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report