Rudy Giuliani says Team Mueller doesn’t believe President Trump’s claim that he was unaware in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian-connected lawyer. Giuliani concludes this from his understanding of the way Mueller’s team interrogated Paul Manafort.
I’m not sure I believe President Trump’s claim either. It’s not just that on the very day the meeting with the Russians was confirmed, Trump stated, “I am going to give a major speech. . .and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons” — a speech he did not give after the meeting with the Russians turned out to be a dud. It’s also that I have difficulty believing Trump wouldn’t have known about a meeting at which his team expected to obtain valuable dirt on Hillary.
It doesn’t matter, though, what I believe, or even what Mueller believes. It’s what he can prove that counts.
Trump’s statement that about the speech he would give, coupled with the absence of such a speech when the Ruskies turned out to be a dry hole, is suggestive — but that’s all. Does Mueller have anything more than this? I don’t know. It seems, however, that Manafort didn’t provide it.
Moreover, it’s not just a question of what Mueller can prove. It’s what he can prove that’s a crime.
Is it a crime to meet with Russians in the hope of obtaining information that will help one’s campaign? John Yoo and David Marston argue persuasively that it is not.
The problem is that, according to Giuliani, President Trump told Mueller’s team he did not know in advance about the meeting his son and other close advisers had with the Russians. If, in fact, Trump did know, then Trump has lied to the feds.
No wonder Mueller would want desperately to secure Paul Manafort’s testimony that Trump knew. No wonder he would make such testimony a condition for a sweet plea deal.
But if Trump did know, it’s more likely he found out from his son, Donald Jr., than from Manafort. Donald Jr. was the “mastermind” behind the meeting. Manafort may simply not know whether Trump knew.
The plot continues to thicken, but we have no way of knowing how thick it has become.