Donald Trump announced last week that he has completed his written answers for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russian collusion investigation. “I write the answers. My lawyers don’t write answers,” he said during an Oval Office bill signing when asked if he had completed the questions himself. “I was asked a series of questions. I answered them very easily.” Then he finished his choco-milk like a big boy, you betcha.
One question remains open and unresolved: Will Trump agree to a sit-down interview with Mueller? His attorneys make bold noises about how great a witness Trump would be, but here in reality, the lot of them would sooner be devoured by crabs than allow their client anywhere near the special counsel and a recording device.
The truth simply does not exist within the man, and his lawyers know it. If such an interview ever took place, Trump would lie with such volume and velocity that Mueller would have to invent a new crime to charge him with, like Double Super Mega Perjury With Extra Perjursauce or something. Common sense dictates such an event will never take place, but if Trump and his ego decide on a showdown, all bets are off.
Lying to Mueller, or to any investigator involved in the Russia matter, is an incredibly bad idea. A good lawyer already knows the answer before asking the question, and Mueller is a good lawyer. Exactly what he is doing and how he’s doing it remains largely unknown because his operation is more airtight than the space shuttle, but there are clues to be gleaned. Clue No. 1: Everyone who lies gets caught, because Mueller already has the truth from other sources. Clue No. 2: See Clue No. 1.
George Papadopoulos, former foreign policy adviser for Trump’s presidential campaign, did not see Clue No. 1. On Monday, he reported to a minimum-security prison camp in Oxford, Wisconsin, to serve a two-week sentence for lying to investigators about his dealings with Russian officials during the campaign. The maximum sentence he could have gotten was six months, but the judge decided two weeks was enough to make the point. Papadopoulos lied, and got caught, because Mueller already knew everything.
Jerome Corsi, the ossified conspiracy monger who first peddled the Obama “birther” fiction to Trump, has likewise run headlong into the brick wall of Mueller’s foreknowledge. Mueller believes Corsi and Trump associate Roger Stone were central to the release of hacked Democratic Party emails during the campaign, and asked Corsi about it under oath. On Monday, Corsi rejected a plea deal for perjury offered by Mueller, and can probably expect to be hit with actual charges any day now, because Mueller knew.
Paul Manafort, the convicted bagman and star Mueller witness who served as Trump’s campaign chairman, apparently missed Clue No. 1 by several nautical miles. In August, Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud in one courtroom, and was staring down the barrel of even heavier charges in another courtroom. He cut a plea deal to lessen the blow, on the promise that he would tell Mueller the truth.
Nope. “Prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said Monday that Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement,” reports The Washington Post, “accusing President Trump’s former campaign chairman of lying repeatedly to them in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
Mueller’s office intends to ask US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort be immediately sentenced for the crimes that would have been covered by the plea deal had Manafort chosen to tell the truth. Mueller may be losing an important witness, but if he knew enough to catch Manafort in his lies, it means Mueller already has the information – and the witnesses – he needs. This is the definition of hardball.
Three Trump associates who missed the call when the clue phone rang are each now either actually incarcerated or waiting for the hammer to fall. Everyone paying attention to the Mueller investigation assumed matters would accelerate after the conclusion of the midterm elections, and the special counsel appears to be validating those expectations.
Trump answered the questions Mueller gave him, and maybe even colored inside the lines, but probably not. Will he actually sit for a sworn interview? If he refuses, will Mueller attempt to compel his testimony with a subpoena? Will newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh get to fulfill his purpose in life and shield Trump from any legal consequences by thwarting that subpoena?
These are the questions of the hour, but only one thing remains certain: Lying to Robert Mueller and his investigators is like playing in traffic. Sooner or later, you’re going to get hit.