Trump Worried? We Surely Must Be Mistaken
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump shared his concerns about a meeting he said didn’t concern him:
That meeting in Trump Tower two years ago presumably also didn’t concern him when he tweeted about it just ten days ago:
It probably didn’t concern him that much when he tweeted about it last year, either:
Although the president confirmed in his Sunday tweet that the reason his son, his campaign manager and his son-in-law all met with a group of Russians in 2016 was to collect compromising information about Hillary Clinton, it was such an insignificant admission that one of his attorneys, Jay Sekulow, appeared on ABC shortly after the president tweeted to assure viewers that there didn’t appear to be anything “illegal” about the meeting.
“The question is what law, statute or rule or regulation’s been violated?” Sekulow asked. “Nobody’s pointed to one.”
Sekulow also said on Sunday that he needed to clear up some confusion he created last year when he said that the president hadn’t helped concoct a misleading cover story about the Trump Tower meeting in response to reporters’ questions about it. In fact, Trump, on his way home from a G-20 summit in Europe last year, dictated a statement aboard Air Force One that said noted child advocate Donald Trump Jr. took the meeting to discuss Russian adoption policies (rather than trying to scoop up kompromat, for example).
“I had bad information at that time and made a mistake in my statement,” Sekulow confessed on Sunday. “That happens when you have cases like this.”
Mistakes, they’ve made a few. In June, another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, copped to the same error about exactly the same thing. “I don’t think anyone was lying,” he assured CNN viewers while discussing why he had said – incorrectly – that Trump hadn’t been the author of Donald Jr.’s cover story.
"It was a mistake," Giuliani allowed. "I swear to God, it was a mistake."
Everybody makes mistakes, and that’s probably why Hope Hicks, Trump’s former White House communications director, traveled with the president to Ohio over the weekend to participate in one of Trump’s bespoke campaign rallies. After all, Hicks was on board Air Force One when Trump dictated the cover story about Donald Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. And she was working in the White House when President Trump decided to fire his former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey. That would make her a potential witness to possible mistakes like, say, aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice.
The Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, already interviewed Hicks last December as part of his probe into Russia’s efforts to infiltrate and undermine the 2016 presidential election. Perhaps Mueller has already asked Hicks all that he intends to, in which case it might be a mistake for me to wonder about the propriety of a potential witness traveling with someone who is a subject of a major federal fraud and national security investigation.
It might also be a mistake for me to think that when the president is flying aboard Air Force One or tweeting away on social media he thinks he’s above the law and beyond accountability. Still, his tweets of late do suggest that he’s gearing up for a confrontation of some sort with Mueller.
There was this from June:
And this one from last week:
Neither of these tweets should be construed as the thoughts of someone growing increasingly worried about the legal implications of further disclosures about meetings in Trump Tower. That would be a mistake. They also shouldn’t be seen as efforts to obstruct justice, as Sekulow will be quick to point out.
“Obstruction of justice by tweet is absurd,” Sekulow said in his ABC appearance on Sunday. “The president has a First Amendment right to put his opinions out there.”
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Timothy L. O’Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion. He has been an editor and writer for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. His books include “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”
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