Over the weekend, we learned that White House counsel Don McGahn spent 30 hours talking to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office about the ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians and the idea that Donald Trump himself may have sought to obstruct the investigation.
On Monday, we learned that Trump was surprised – and bothered – that he didn’t know the extent of the time McGahn spent with Mueller’s team or, exactly, what was discussed. This, from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond, is telling:
“The President was unsettled by the notion that he didn’t know everything McGahn said to the special counsel during their interviews, the sources said. And while he had approved the cooperation, Trump did not know the conversations stretched for 30 hours or that his legal team didn’t conduct a full debriefing with McGahn after the fact. … Trump remained agitated for the rest of the weekend, the people said, believing the revelation made him look weak. Between conversations with his lawyers and a round of golf with Sen. Rand Paul, Trump lashed out on Twitter, decrying the suggestion he was caught off-guard.”
The McGahn episode – and Trump’s reaction to it – is illustrative of the broader problem Trump has (and continues to have) with the probe and Mueller: The former FBI chief is an absolute stickler for detail while the President is, um, not.
Trump built a massive real estate and marketing empire by staying out of the fray. He would come in at the last minute to close the deals, to effectively be “Donald Trump.” He had zero interest in negotiating the particulars of any deal. Leave the details to the pencil pushers, he would handle closing. He succeeded by staying at 50,000 feet – only swooping in to exert his unique sort of pressure and influence.
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Mueller has made a career out of meticulousness. In any investigation (and don’t forget that Mueller was the head of the FBI for a decade) the details matter hugely. It’s in the details where well-crafted stories break down. It’s in the details where mistakes are made. It’s in the details where inconsistencies emerge.
So while Trump blusters on Twitter about alleged corruption within the ranks of Mueller’s team, the special counsel silently gathers details and more details. And that makes Trump mad. Really mad. Because, big picture, he deeply believes he had nothing to do with collusion or obstruction. Mueller, Trump thinks, is missing the forest for the trees. Manafort wasn’t even working for Trump when he allegedly made a bunch of illegal financial transactions! George Papadopoulos was just a guy who got coffee! On and on it goes.
But Mueller is just gathering facts and details – and seeing what they add up to.
The Point: Trump is impatient and doesn’t want to wait. Unfortunately for the President, he’s not driving this car. Robert Mueller is.