Negotiating in public

New York TimesThe special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will accept written answers from President Trump on questions about whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference, Mr. Mueller’s office told Mr. Trump’s lawyers in a letter, two people briefed on it said on Tuesday.

But on another significant aspect of the investigation — whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry itself — Mr. Mueller and his investigators understood that issues of executive privilege could complicate their pursuit of a presidential interview and did not ask for written responses on that matter, according to the letter, which was sent on Friday.

Ask yourself, why was this leaked?

Why would someone on Mueller's team leak it?

It seems like an obvious weakening of Mueller's position, but also an enticement to the President to talk to Mueller and get the whole thing over with. But it's not that simple. Even if Mueller doesn't ask about obstruction of justice, that's still an issue obviously in play. Mueller may feel like he can make a case for that (not to a jury, but to a Democrat-controlled House!) without asking the president about it. So, what does Mueller actually want to ask about?

If I had to guess, he wants to ask the President "What did you know and when did you know it?" That's the famous question that sank Nixon, and Mueller has the advantage of knowing that lying to a law enforcement official is in itself a crime. He's charged people with that regularly (Flynn, Popadopoulos). Even if the President is completely innocent of any other crime, as I believe, if he misremembers or even just contradicts any other witness, Mueller can use that as the basis of a charge of lying. And then his report to the Democrat House after the midterms can spin that as a cover up and worthy of impeachment.

That's a huge risk for the President to take.

So in my read, this is a lure. Mueller's got nothing, and something happened recently to weaken his negotiating positiom, but he might be able to parlay a question-and-answer session into something. Trump should not bite.

But I do have to wonder what happened to cause this particular shift in negotiating positions.

This entry was published Wed Sep 05 15:08:49 CDT 2018 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2018-09-05 00:52:46.0. [Tweet]

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