For reasons that aren’t yet clear, Attorney General Bill Barr assured the public yesterday morning that Donald Trump’s White House “fully cooperated” with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. We soon after learned that the opposite is true, though even at the time, the claim didn’t make a lot of sense.
If the president was willing to “fully” cooperate, wouldn’t he have agreed to answer investigators’ questions?
We learned in the Mueller report that investigators considered a subpoena to compel Trump to answer questions, but they ultimately passed, concluding that the legal fight would create excessive delays in the probe. The special counsel’s office instead agreed to a written Q&A with the president.
As the Washington Post noted, it didn’t go especially well.
They covered four primary topic areas: the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, the Russian effort to interfere with the election, the proposed development project in Moscow and contacts with Russia or Russia-related issues during the campaign and transition. In total, the Mueller team asked 38 distinct questions with 37 follow-ups.
Trump offered 22 distinct answers. In 19 of those answers, he claims not to remember or recall some particular issue. Often, those failures to remember what happened constitute the entirety of his response.
Questions related to obstruction of justice weren’t answered at all.
The Mueller report noted, in reference to Trump’s responses, “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate.” Imagine that.
But to appreciate what makes this even more amazing, it’s worth revisiting how proud the president was in his answers.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, Trump originally claimed he was eager to sit down with investigators to answer their questions. When the president’s legal defense team realized he’d inevitably lie, they negotiated the terms of a written interview, about which Trump was eager to boast.
“I write the answers.” Trump told reporters six months ago. “My lawyers don’t write answers, I write answers. I was asked a series of questions. I have answered them very easily. Very easily…. The questions were very routinely answered by me. By me. Okay?”
As it turns out, the Republican answered the questions “very easily” because it doesn’t take a lot of effort to skip over difficult lines of inquiry, while writing, “I don’t remember” in response to the others.
Trump has bragged more than once that he has “one of the great memories of all time” I’m starting to think that might not be altogether true.