Donald Trump doesn’t know nothing about nothing…
We know that President Donald Trump and lawyers submitted their written responses to special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions this week. And now, thanks to the one and only Dana Bash, we know how Trump answered two of the most critical questions of the investigation.
1) Did Roger Stone tell Trump about WikiLeaks and its plans to release emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta?
2) Did Trump know in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russian officials and his top campaign brass — including his son, Don Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner?
And the answers to the questions are (seemingly) simple and short: Nope!
“President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”
But remember that I said Trump’s answers were seemingly simple. Because Bash adds this line (bolding is mine): “One source described the President’s answers without providing any direct quotes and said the President made clear he was answering to the best of his recollection.”
Which is, um, interesting. Especially when you consider that lying to a federal prosecutor could be a federal offense.
In light of that reality, what Trump is doing is the only plausible thing he can do from a political standpoint — deny he had any knowledge of events that would suggest collusion between Russians and the candidate was happening — while also preserving some level of legal deniability, too. (I didn’t say these things never happened, I simply said they didn’t happen to the best of my recollection.)
The “best of my recollection” case is an ironic one for Trump to make, given his much-touted memory. “Right from the beginning, there’s no hesitation, one of the great memories of all time,” Trump said in 2017, pointing to his brain. In 2015, as alleged evidence for his false claim that he saw Muslims celebrating on New Jersey rooftops on September 11, 2001, Trump said: “I have the world’s greatest memory. It’s one thing everyone agrees on.”
This isn’t the first time Trump’s memory has failed him in regard to the Russia probe. In 2017, Trump said “I don’t remember much about that meeting” about a 2016 gathering in which one-time adviser George Papadopoulos floated the idea of a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Point: Trump is hedging here — to preserve his political and legal liability, when both are in significant peril. Sometimes forgetting is the only way out.
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