Donald Trump woke up furious on Monday morning, following a weekend during which the New York Times published a series of articles detailing White House Counsel Don McGahn’s “extensive cooperation” with the special counsel probe and Michael Cohen’s apparently imminent plea deal with prosecutors who have zeroed in on a $20 million bank fraud.
The McGahn news was especially disconcerting for all manner of reasons, not the least of which is that Don’s account apparently included detailed descriptions of what went on when Trump fired James Comey. McGahn also told Mueller’s team about Trump’s frustration with Jeff Sessions, a key element in the obstruction probe. Worst of all, the Times suggests Mueller might not have found out that Trump attempted to fire the special counsel were it not for McGahn’s interviews which reportedly totaled some 30 hours.
The original article about McGahn was published on Saturday and one of the more amusing takeaways was that Don and his attorney apparently believed Trump was trying to set the White House Counsel up to take the fall for obstruction. McGahn reportedly couldn’t understand why Trump and his other attorneys (John Dowd and Ty Cobb, both of whom have since resigned or “retired”) were being so open with the special counsel. The only plausible explanation he could conjure was that the President was attempting to make Don the sacrificial obstruction lamb so, according to the Times, McGahn and his attorney “devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mueller to demonstrate that McGahn did nothing wrong.”
As it turned out, McGahn was thinking too hard about things. Trump’s “strategy” of full transparency was just what it appeared to be on the surface: a stupid decision, as opposed to a nefarious plot to implicate Don. In other words, McGahn gave Mueller 30 hours of interviews for no reason.
Trump was at pains over the weekend to try and pretend like that was all part of the plan, but it clearly wasn’t. The Times published a followup on Sunday that was even more entertaining than the original. Here are a couple of particularly notable excerpts:
President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake.
The president’s lawyers said on Sunday that they were confident that Mr. McGahn had said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews. But Mr. McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what Mr. McGahn told the investigators, according to two people close to the president.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers realized on Saturday that they had not been provided a full accounting after The New York Times published an article describing Mr. McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s office. After Mr. McGahn was initially interviewed by the special counsel’s office in November, Mr. Trump’s lawyers never asked for a complete description of what Mr. McGahn had said, according to a person close to the president.
Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, gave the president’s lawyers a short overview of the interview but few details, and he did not inform them of what Mr. McGahn said in subsequent interactions with the investigators, according to a person close to Mr. Trump.
Cue Mr. Bill.
It looks increasingly like McGahn’s interviews will be an important part of Mueller’s obstruction report which, I guess, will be on its way to Congress sometime in the next several months (although the time line there is debatable).
On Sunday, in response to the second article in the Times, Rudy Giuliani admitted that his knowledge of what McGahn said to Mueller was “secondhand” from John Dowd, who resigned in March over disagreements about how to handle the obstruction probe. In December, Dowd famously tried to take the fall for Trump after the President appeared to admit to obstruction in a Twitter post.
Well speaking of Twitter and obstruction and Trump, the President launched into a truly absurd tirade on Monday morning following a half-dozen equally ridiculous Sunday tweets aimed at the Times.
“Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel, only with my approval, for purposes of transparency”, the President tweeted, misspelling “counsel” for the fourth time in 24 hours. He continued:
Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone…. …. looking for trouble. They are enjoying ruining people’s lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side – the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace! Where’s the Collusion? They made up a phony crime called Collusion, and when there was no Collusion they say there was Obstruction (of a phony crime that never existed). If you FIGHT BACK or say anything bad about the Rigged Witch Hunt, they scream Obstruction!
Why yes, Mueller is “looking for trouble”. Specifically, he’s looking for the type of “trouble” that one causes in a democracy when one endeavors to subvert the democratic process with the help of a hostile foreign power on the way to rigging an election.
Additionally, that looks like Trump admitting to obstruction on Twitter (again) in front of 54 million people. That is, clearly he is now starting to realize that there’s a legal term for “FIGHTING BACK” and that term is “obstruction of justice”. But if you come to that realization too late, the last thing you want to do is tweet about it.
What else can you say? Oh, I know…
Kellyanne, I need you to go into my bank account, withdraw $5 million, and put it in a duffle bag with a fake mustache and a bucket of chicken.