Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He blamed a leak on the Mueller investigation that definitely came from his own lawyers.

Last night, the New York Times released a summary of 49 questions that special counsel Robert Mueller's team wanted to ask Trump, in the increasingly unlikely event that Trump agreed to an interview. (Trump has publicly said he would consent to an interview; his lawyers are dead-set against it, fearing that Trump will perjure himself.) The NYT article clearly said that its source was a list put together by Trump's legal team, not the original questions provided by Mueller to Trump's lawyers.

Today, in a two-tweet comment that contained a number of other falsehoods, Trump said it was "disgraceful" that the questions had been leaked. There are three possible explanations.
  1. Trump is genuinely unaware that his own lawyers or staff leaked the questions. This is fairly likely. Trump's staff and lawyers routinely, and in some cases flagrantly, manipulate him through the information that they choose to withhold from him, or the comments they make in the press. For this to be true, Trump would have to have remained ignorant of the fact that the leak came from his own lawyers' notes--which is entirely possible.

    Considering the horror that Trump's lawyers have of putting him on the record, where even the tiniest attempt to shade the truth could lead to perjury charges, it is quite plausible that one of them leaked the questions in an attempt to save Trump from himself.

  2. Trump himself ordered the questions leaked. Trump may believe that if he can pin a "leak" on Mueller's office, he will gain sympathy from voters. In recent months, with the departure of the more qualified legal minds from Trump's team and their replacement with political operatives like Rudy Giuliani, Trump's strategy has turned more towards attacking Mueller and his "witch hunt" directly.

  3. Trump knows that his own side leaked the questions, but is opportunistically blaming the special counsel.  A hybrid of the other two possibilities. It's possible (but not certain) that someone on Trump's staff would have informed him that the leak came from within his own house, in which case he might have tried to make the best of the situation by falsely suggesting that Mueller's team had leaked it.

Why is this a problem?

  • It's wrong to blame people for things you should have known they didn't do.
  • It's bad if a president can be this easily manipulated.