In the “Face the Nation” interview that aired yesterday, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan asked Donald Trump about Roger Stone’s recent arrest and the prospect of a pardon. The president, not surprisingly, pretended Stone was a meaningless figure in his political operation and said he hasn’t considered the prospect of a pardon.
It led to this exchange about a possible report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
BRENNAN: Would you make the Mueller report public because you say there’s nothing in there? Congress can subpoena it anyway, though.
TRUMP: Totally up to the attorney general.
BRENNAN: But what do you want them to do?
TRUMP: Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign.
The back and forth continued a while longer, culminating in the president saying, in reference to public disclosure of a Mueller report, “It depends. I have no idea what it’s going to say.”
From there, viewers heard the usual palaver about “witch hunts” and the absence of “collusion.”
But while Trump’s rhetoric about the issue was itself notable, it might be worth pausing on the president’s reference to “the Mueller report” and what Trump believes it says – because, as far we know, there is no such thing as a Mueller report, and if there were, there’s no reason to think the president would know what it says.
Look at that quote again: “Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign.” In context, it’s not at all clear what the word “it” referred to, so it’s difficult to assess the assertion on the merits.
But even putting that aside, the fact remains that the special counsel, as far as we know, hasn’t written a report. In fact, we don’t even know with certainty if he ever will.
All of which raises the question of whether Trump just made this up in the heat of the moment – it would hardly be the first time this president lied during an interview while defending himself – or whether he’s somehow gained access to elements of Mueller’s findings.
For what it’s worth, it was just a few months ago when Trump claimed publicly that he had knowledge about “the inner workings” of Mueller’s investigation. The president made the claim about a week after acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was appointed – at which point the special counsel began reporting to him, instead of Rod Rosenstein.
I’ll gladly concede that I might be overthinking this one. It’s very easy to believe Trump just blurted out a baseless claim, as he’s done countless times before.
But in this case, the idea that the president simply made up a foolish claim is the best case scenario.