Week 64: Trump’s Not Afraid of Lying to Mueller. Just Telling the Truth

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Week 64: Trump’s Not Afraid of Lying to Mueller. Just Telling the Truth.
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All the yelping by Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jay Sekulow about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III setting a “perjury trap” for President Donald Trump ignores the fact that their client, who has tweeted and spoken 4,229 (and counting) alternative facts since the inauguration, knows how to tell the truth when placed under oath. Deposed in his libel suit against journalist Timothy L. O’Brien in 2007, Trump concede 30 whoppers he’d told over the years—lies about his debts; his wealth; the size of his stake in a Manhattan development; what he charges to give speeches; the size of the Trump Organization; and so on. Trump wasn’t entirely truthful in the deposition. You’d be disappointed if he had been, right? According to O’Brien, he lied about his business relationships with organized crime figures. But setting that fib aside for a moment, Trump isn’t so much afraid of being caught lying to Mueller’s investigation and prosecuted for perjury. Having grown accustomed over his long career of telling a dozen different versions of events, he’s mortified at the consequences of having to tell a binding truth that leaves him no space for obfuscation or creative doubling-back. This is why he refused to release his income tax returns (after having promised to do so!). Releasing them would pin him down to a single, definable group of facts. Trump thrives in environments of the moment where he can pitch whatever version of reality that best suits his needs and temperament. Trump reportedly thinks he can demonstrate his innocence if allowed to sit and jaw with Mueller, but I doubt it. What he likes to do is set down tangled, conflicting versions of the same story that confuse his critics (and investigators) and consume their hours as they attempt to unknot the conflicts. A classic example of this version-shifting followed the New York Times report on the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians peddling Hillary Clinton campaign-dirt to Donald Trump Jr. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. It took Trump two full years, and multiple revised takes, to go from his original explanation that the meeting was about Russian adoptions to an unambiguous admission that the meeting was about dispensing Clinton dirt. Trump’s unique relationship with the truth makes a mockery of the idea that a prosecutor would have to construct a perjury trap for him. For decades now, Trump has behaved so recklessly you could say his main hobby is fashioning bespoke snares that fit his neck perfectly. The truth sets the average man free. For Trump, the lie is the great liberator. Going into an interview with Mueller, Trump would know that his interlocutor has as good handle on the facts behind the Russia investigation as he does and that all of his usual escape routes would be blocked. Even worse for Trump, Mueller is likely to know the background facts and chronologies even better than the president. Those who’ve ever told a lie (can I get a show of hands?) know that working unde


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