Last month, after President Donald Trump prepared his written responses to questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s office, he told reporters that he answered them “very easily.” His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, now tells a very different story.
President Trump on written questions from Robert Mueller: “My lawyers don’t write answers. I write answers. I was asked a series of questions. I’ve answered them very easily.” pic.twitter.com/bj00tjRe1x
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 16, 2018
“Answering those questions was a nightmare,” Giuliani said in an interview for The Atlantic. “It took him about three weeks to do what would normally take two days.”
This appears to be a running theme for the White House’s efforts in responding to Mueller’s investigation these days, with the end of election season bringing a series of major developments. In recent days, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about the timeline of negotiations with the Russian government for a potential Trump property in Moscow. Then, Mueller filed a sentencing memo for Michael Flynn which said the former National Security Adviser “substantially assisted” prosecutors in a number of investigations. The Flynn memo has led to speculation that bigger things are coming as a result of his cooperation.
So how to respond to whatever comes next? That appears to be another question that’s proving difficult to answer. Trump defenders like Alan Dershowitz have called for Mueller to allow Trump’s team to release a report of their own at the same time that the Special Counsel’s Office releases their final report. As it turns out, it looks like Trump’s camp isn’t even bothering to prepare for this, because of the problems with maintaining a consistent message.
Current and former officials, including Giuliani, told The Atlantic that there is no plan in place for how to deal with Mueller’s report. Giuliani said that the difficulty they had with answering Mueller’s questions made it tough to spend time on a report to counter whatever the Special Counsel’s Office put out. One former official said it’s tough to create a strategy that Trump himself could very well ignore.
“We would always put together plans with the knowledge that he wouldn’t use them or they’d go off the rails,” that person said. “And at this point, with Mueller, they’ve decided they’re not even going to do that.”
At the same time, Giuliani warned against letting Trump set the tone.
“I don’t think following his lead is the right thing. He’s the client,” he said. “The more controlled a person is, the more intelligent they are, the more they can make the decision. But he’s just like every other client. He’s not more … you know, controlled than any other client. In fact, he’s a little less.”
Efforts to control the situation, of course, may prove futile.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the world that can stop Donald Trump from tweeting,” Giuliani said. “I’ve tried.”
[Image via Fox News screengrab]