They say that one definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. In that case, perhaps President Trump is paving the way for a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in whatever charges Special Counsel Robert Mueller may eventually bring against him.
The New York Times is reporting today that President Trump, in the midst of being investigated for obstruction of justice in relation to his firing of former FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation and for his potential involvement in the drafting of a misleading response to the initial stories about his son’s meeting with Russian agents at Trump Tower, has spoken to witnesses about their interviews with Mueller.
Even worse for Trump is the fact that Mueller now knows about the president’s contacts with the witnesses. The New York Times cites three people familiar with the incidents as the source for their story.
One of the witnesses in question is White House counsel, Don McGahn who according to the sources was asked by an aide with instructions from Trump to issue a statement denying an article in The New York Times that reported McGahn’s testimony to Mueller’s investigators included the story of that time Trump ordered him to fire Mueller.
McGahn wisely refused to issue such a statement and had to remind the president that he had indeed asked his top Oval Office lawyer to fire the Special Counsel. If McGahn had followed the president’s directive, he would have been contradicting his own statements to the investigators and been open to being charged with lying to them and obstruction of justice.
The other former Trump administration figure involved in this latest demonstration of Trump’s desperate attempts to wiggle his way out of Mueller’s crosshairs is Reince Priebus, whom Trump invited back to the White House in December of last year. While he was there, the president reportedly asked his ex-Chief-of-Staff how his interview had been and whether the investigators had been “nice.”
According to The Times:
“The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.”
While some legal experts contacted by the paper say that Trump’s contact with the witnesses doesn’t meet the legal standards for witness tampering, witnesses and their lawyers saw them as problematic enough to report them to the Special Counsel who could use them to add to his investigation into obstruction of justice by the president.
Since the president has yet to be interviewed by Mueller’s team, having knowledge about what other witnesses may have testified could help Trump avoid giving a contradictory account or otherwise help him develop his answers to the investigators’ questions.
With this new knowledge in his hands. the next step remains for Mueller to take. Given his modus operandi to date, don’t expect him to telegraph that move before he’s absolutely ready to.