Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a press conference after appearing in court to call for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014.
Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP

If the Mueller report exonerates Trump, why write a ‘counter-report’?

If all goes according to plan, Attorney General Bill Barr’s office will release a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings tomorrow morning, which should shed some additional light on the Russia scandal and Donald Trump’s relation to it.

Soon after, however, we may also see a separate report from the president’s defense attorneys. The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago:

Lawyers for Mr. Trump have for months been preparing a counter-report. It is now 140 pages long, but lawyers want to whittle it down to about 50, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in an interview.

Mr. Giuliani said Mr. Trump’s lawyers expect the bulk of their report to focus on the topic of obstruction of justice and plan to scrap most of the material on collusion.

How attorneys could spend months writing a response to a report they have not seen – and up until recently, did not exist – is not at all clear.

But even putting that aside, there are two principal areas of concern. First, Giuliani has struggled for quite a while when describing the length of his purported counter-report.

Last August, Giuliani said he and his team had prepared a counter-report to Muller’s findings that was “quite voluminous.” Giuliani added at the time, “The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn’t done yet.” A month later, Giuliani said his counter-report was 45 pages and growing. Over the weekend, it was 140 pages and shrinking. Yesterday, it was “34 or 35” pages.

The former mayor sounds a bit like a student who hasn’t yet started a term paper, but who’s eager to convince his professor the work is nearly complete.

But as amusing as it’s been to watch Giuliani dissemble over the course of several months, there’s an overarching question that Team Trump hasn’t yet addressed: if the Mueller report exonerates the president, why in the world would his lawyers feel the need to release a counter-report at all?

Just three weeks ago, Trump told reporters, in reference to a document he had not read, “The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better.”

A day earlier, the Republican published a tweet in which he said the Mueller report had led to his “total EXONERATION.”

It’s against this backdrop that the president’s legal team is preparing its own document, intended to “counter” Mueller’s findings?