Trump’s increasingly desperate attacks on Mueller
Consider the facts that are public—avoiding the need to speculate about what Special Counsel Robert Mueller or any other investigator knows privately. During the campaign, Trump called for Russia to hack and release emails from his political adversary, the former secretary of state. (The candidate later tried to pass this off as a joke.) Late in the election, Trump authorized a six-figure payment to help ensure the silence of a Playboy model with whom he allegedly had an affair. He also later reimbursed his fixer Michael Cohen for another six-figure payment to another woman with whom he allegedly had an affair.
Once in office, Trump tried to intercede with the FBI director to get his national-security adviser off the hook for lying to federal agents. When that didn’t work, he fired the FBI director, offered a pretextual excuse, and then acknowledged soon afterward that he’d fired the director because he was upset about the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Later, he attempted to fire the special counsel appointed to take over the Russia probe.
During the campaign, several of his top lieutenants, including his son, his son-in-law, and his campaign chairman met with a Russian who they believed would deliver damaging information about Hillary Clinton; they were told this was part of Kremlin support for Trump’s candidacy. Trump, his son, and his son-in-law all say that the president was not aware of the meeting until July 2017, though Cohen disputes that. In any case, the president later personally dictated a false statement about that meeting for the press, attempting to hide the truth about it.
These are only the most glaring examples; there are scads of smaller or less fleshed-out threads, too. In general, the administration has become a haven for crooks and liars.
Each of these examples, in its own right, deserves to be a huge political scandal. As Alisyn Camerota put it to Giuliani during a CNN interview Monday, “Isn’t all of this unbecoming for a president of the United States?”
The answer is “Yes.” But Giuliani couldn’t even muster a “No,” offering a tepid “I don’t know” before quickly turning the subject back to legal matters. On points of law, Giuliani may or may not win cleanly, but he is able to at least raise questions and deflect from unacceptable political behaviors.
Trump and his lawyers have an unusual accomplice in this effort to turn a political scandal into a legal case: the president’s critics. Correctly sensing that there is no appetite among congressional Republicans to hold Trump accountable for his personal and political misconduct, Trump’s critics have put their faith in the legal system, transforming Mueller into a mythical savior who, they pray, will deliver the country from Trump through a careful, methodical legal investigation.