Monday, May 13, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got his talking points mixed on Don McGahn and the Mueller report.

Trump held a joint press conference today with Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, a meeting that was controversial in its own right because of Orbán's notorious anti-semitism and ultra-nationalism. At the press conference, this exchange took place:

Q: Should Don McGahn be held in contempt of Congress? 
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don’t know anything about what’s going on. I can tell you that there has never been anybody so transparent as the Trump administration. And it was no collusion and no obstruction. And we’re wasting a lot of time with that stuff. But the Mueller report came out; it was a very good report for us.

Trump's answer suggests that he might have gotten his index cards mixed up. As of this past week, Trump's official position was that he was very much up to speed on the doings of his former White House Counsel. In simplest terms, Trump has been furious with McGahn ever since he allowed McGahn to be interviewed by Robert Mueller, and McGahn betrayed his trust by... answering Mueller's questions. McGahn's client was the presidency rather than Trump personally, although it's not clear that Trump has ever understood the difference, and so his testimony about Trump's ham-handed attempts to obstruct or end the Mueller probe—many of them foiled by McGahn himself—became centerpieces of the Mueller report.

Trump has even begun attacking McGahn on Twitter, declaring over the weekend that he was "never a big fan" of the man he personally chose to be White House counsel. The reason for that outburst seems to have been reporting that McGahn refused repeated requests to say publicly that Trump had not tried to obstruct justice.

As for the Mueller report, which yesterday he called every name in the book, Trump may have already forgotten that he's tried to retroactively assert executive privilege over the entire thing, including the unredacted parts already in public view, in an attempt to keep Congress from seeing the redacted portions in closed session or the underlying evidence.

Why does this matter?

  • Presidents should be able to keep their stories straight from day to day.
  • There's no reason to keep a "very good report" secret from the elected representatives of the American people.