During a trip to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, President Donald Trump carved out time to sit down for an interview with one of his biggest champions – Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
Fox News released a snippet of the interview – the full version will run on Ingraham’s show Thursday night – in which Trump talks about the public statement given by former special counsel Robert Mueller last week. Here’s what Trump said:
“Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself … because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong.”
Where to begin!
Let’s start with this: The President of the United States, in front the American war cemetery in Normandy, France where nearly 10,000 Americans are interred, decided to call Mueller “a fool.” That’s Robert Mueller, a Marine infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War. The same Mueller who received a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal for his service. (Worth noting: Donald Trump never served in Vietnam; he received five deferments including one for bone spurs.) The same Mueller who served as the FBI director for a decade – nominated to the job by a Republican president and a Democratic president. And the man who led a nearly two-year long investigation into Russia’s active efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
That was who Trump called a “fool” while framed by the grave markers of thousands of Americans killed in one of the decisive battles of the Second World War.
So, there’s that. Which would be enough. Too much, even.
But Trump didn’t stop there. He added this: “Because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong.”
Which, honestly, what?
First of all, Mueller has never testified on his findings. He issued a 448-page report detailing his findings on Russian interference, the lack of proof of criminal conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and a series of potential obstructive behaviors engaged in by Trump during the course of the probe. Mueller also wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr raising concerns that Barr’s four-page summary, which had been released just a few days prior, didn’t fully capture the totality of his report, especially on the issues of the obstruction question. And then there was Mueller’s 10-ish minute statement about his findings – and his decision to resign as special counsel – late last month.
That’s the total of Mueller’s utterances and observations on the probe and its aftermath. That’s it. So, it’s not at all clear what Trump is referring to when he says that “people don’t report” a letter that Mueller sent “to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong.”
Just to walk through some basic facts here:
1) There was no Mueller “testimony.’
2) Mueller has never said anything publicly to suggest his report was “wrong.”
3) The letter Mueller has sent was to Barr taking issue with the how the AG’s summary statement – and subsequent media coverage – described his findings. And to be clear, that letter didn’t exonerate Trump in any way; Mueller was concerned Barr had glossed over the nuance of the potentially obstructive actions.
4) Mueller’s public statement last month also was not the sort of thing that Trump should cite as beneficial to his own interests. Quite the opposite. Mueller emphasized – as he had done in the report that “if we had had confidence that the President had clearly not committed a crime, we would have said so.” He also noted that the special counsel’s office never even considered charging Trump on obstruction due to guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel (within the Justice Department) that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
How does Trump respond when confronted with these basic facts that directly contradict his attack on Mueller? Who knows! In the clip Fox News released, Ingraham doesn’t challenge Trump on any of his claims. (It’s possible that when the full interview airs tonight she will have brought up some of these factual errors by the President, but um, I wouldn’t hold your breath.)
The point here is simple: Trump has long shown a willingness to stray from established facts when it comes to Mueller, the special counsel team and what they concluded about Russian interference in the 2016 election – among other things. And he does all of that in this answer to Ingraham! But he also simply doesn’t make sense – even within his own created world of what happened with the Russia investigation. Which is a new one for him.