Mueller Could Turn Trump’s ‘Easy Answers’ Into An ‘Easy’ Indictment
President Trump on Friday said he has finished working on the questions submitted to him by special counsel Robert Mueller, declaring, “I answered them very easily.” But for Trump lawyers, those may be the most chilling five words uttered thus far in the long Russia investigation.
Trump seems to ignore one universally accepted fact in this political quagmire: nothing is easy about this investigation, let alone “very” easy.
According to news reports, Trump was given a couple dozen questions that focused on Russian collusion allegations and other matters before his inauguration. That alone defies any “very easy” responses.
As noted by several news outlets, the questions notably did not include a single query about obstruction of justice. Hmmm.
That is an ironic twist, since Trump fired then FBI director James Comey in the midst of the Russia investigation. That act triggered the obstruction probe and produced an overwhelming level of support for the appointment of the special counsel.
The omission of obstruction questions can mean a variety of different things, from the mundane to the horrific:
It could be that Mueller concluded earlier that obstruction was not a serious allegation. Or, which is more like it, it could mean that, given White House opposition to obstruction questions, Mueller already has all the evidence he needs to deliver a devastating blow to Trump when he issues his special counsel report to Congress.
Or —and this is the most problematic scenario for Trump— Mueller could be prepared to hit Trump with a subpoena to answer the rest of the questions that fall under his mandate. This scares White House counsels the most as they are aware of Trump’s penchant for speaking his mind and making impulsive statements.
In fact, the second most scary six words uttered in this controversy followed the first. Trump stated that it “didn’t take very long to do them.”
If Trump believes these questions are really just about whether he personally colluded with the Russians, he has not been paying attention to the developments in the investigation.
The list of Mueller indictments shows that collusion is largely immaterial to most of his prosecutions. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was prosecuted entirely for matters predating the election and separate from collusion allegations. Virtually all of the remaining American defendants were charged with unrelated crimes or with making false statements to investigators.
The point is that it was not easy for them to answer the questions, but it was relatively easy for Mueller to indict them.
For this reason, lawyers for Trump delayed submission of his answers due to concerns over possible “perjury trap” questions. If Trump answers with any specificity, his responses will be overlaid with the testimony of a host of cooperating witnesses, from former national security adviser Michael Flynn to former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen. If statements by Trump do not match up, Congress will then be left with a stark choice over who is lying on the issue.
There also is the fact that the “easy” answers will have a profound impact on the next stage of this controversy as they will clear the way for Mueller to issue a report on Russian collusion. It also would give Mueller ample reason to separate that report from a report on other potential crimes such as obstruction. With the House under Democratic control then, that could trigger a flurry of investigations and subpoenas even before an obstruction report arrives on Capitol Hill.