On Sunday afternoon, as Donald Trump was presumably preparing for his European visit, the president took the time to publish a tweet attacking, among others, Special Counsel Robert Mueller. According to Trump, Mueller “had to correct his ridiculous statement.”
When I saw this over the weekend, I’d been away from my desk for a while, so I started looking around, trying to figure out what the president was referring to. I came up empty.
And yet, there was Trump again yesterday, publishing another tweet that referenced a “corrective letter” from Mueller.
So, what’s this all about? The Republican sat down with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham this morning in Normandy, and with the graves of war heroes serving as a backdrop, Trump expanded on his new attack against Mueller.
President Trump, in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, said former Special Counsel Robert Mueller made “such a fool” out of himself last week when he delivered his first and only public statement about the Russia investigation. [..]
“Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself … because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong,” Trump told Ingraham.
For now, let’s also put aside how offensive it is to see a U.S. president – in Normandy for the 75 anniversary of D-Day – go after Americans on foreign soil, with a military cemetery in the background.
Let’s instead pause to consider what in the world Trump is talking about.
To hear the president tell it, Mueller had to do a “letter” in order to “straighten out” what he said “because his testimony was wrong.” While I’ll concede that translating Trump to English can be a frustrating and painful exercise, I think I know what he was trying to say.
On Wednesday, May 29, Mueller announced that he was stepping down from his Justice Department role and took the opportunity to emphasize a series of points: Russia attacked our elections; obstruction of justice is a serious matter; he did not exonerate the president; and he believed he lacked the legal authority to indict a sitting president.
It was, to put it mildly, a rather brutal assessment for the White House.
Later that day, the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office clarified, “The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice…. The Special Counsel’s report and his statement today made clear that the office concluded it would not reach a determination – one way or the other – about whether the President committed a crime.”
This clarification was intended to resolve any discrepancies between Attorney General Bill Barr’s earlier remarks on the subject and Mueller’s. It did nothing to detract from Mueller’s findings.
But in Trump’s mind, this clarification was some kind of humiliating “correction” the special counsel was forced to issue.
Reality tells a very different story. Trump’s claims in Normandy this morning notwithstanding, Mueller didn’t have to write a “letter”; he didn’t offer “testimony”; nothing he said was “wrong”; and he certainly didn’t make “a fool out of himself.”
This is just a desperate president grasping at straws.