Giuliani’s Last Stand: Protect Trump From a Perjury Charge

The question of whether Trump will be interviewed by Robert Mueller and his team has been in the news once again this week. One of the reasons is that apparently it came up in Bob Woodward’s book.

In one revelatory anecdote, Woodward describes a scene in the White House residence. Trump’s lawyer, convinced the President would perjure himself, put Trump through a test — a practice interview for the one he might have with Mueller. Trump failed, according to Dowd, but the President still insisted he should testify…

Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump’s current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller’s office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn’t possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.

“He just made something up. That’s his nature,” Dowd said to Mueller.

It was during that conversation that Mueller reportedly said “I need the president’s testimony … What was his intent on Comey? … I want to see if there was corrupt intent.”

That interchange would have happened before March 2018, when Dowd resigned from his position as Trump’s personal lawyer. But Mueller is obviously a very smart man. Anyone paying attention to Trump over the last few years already knew that he is a pathological liar who just makes things up. So I’m not sure the president’s lawyers told the special counsel anything he didn’t already know. And yet, if Woodward’s reporting is accurate, Mueller said that he needed the president’s testimony on obstruction of justice to determine if there was corrupt intent.

That could make it difficult to understand why Mueller would agree to get Trump’s testimony in writing. It would allow his lawyers  to review answers and ensure that he wasn’t committing perjury by lying about his attempts to obstruct justice. But even with that concession, Giuliani is now saying that questions on that topic are off the table, even in writing.

President Donald Trump will not answer federal investigators’ questions, in writing or in person, about whether he tried to block the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, one of the president’s attorneys told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said questions about obstruction of justice were a “no-go.”

Why would the president’s legal team be more worried about written answers to questions about obstruction than they are about a conspiracy with Russia? I would suggest that, when it comes to the information about this probe that is publicly available, Giuliani knows that Mueller already has the receipts on the obstruction charge. As I noted last week, McGahn supplied the special counsel with proof of that in the memo he wrote on February 15, 2017, contemporaneously documenting what the president knew and when he knew it in relation to the firing of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

Giuliani knows that Trump can’t answer questions about those events, even in writing, without either admitting that he obstructed justice or handing Mueller a perjury charge on top of everything else he has. I am once again reminded of what Michael Caputo said after his questioning by the special counsel.

If we’re working with a fishing metaphor, I’d say the Mueller team is spearfishing. They believe they know where they’re going, not asking a wide range of questions that seem to be unrelated. They know exactly what they are looking for and they have emails backing it up. And I don’t think that they ask any questions that they don’t already know the answer to…I don’t recall in that whole three hour period where they asked a question that they did not already know the answer.

If the Mueller probe is actually following the path prosecutors typically follow when investigating a mafia case, we’re in the final stage. The case has been built and it is now time to interview the kingpin. It strikes me that Mueller might not see Trump’s testimony as that crucial, except to determine whether or not there will be an added charge of perjury from a president who seems literally incapable of telling the truth.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.