Trump puts ‘end’ of pres­i­dency be­hind him with le­gal strat­egy of co­op­er­a­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

In two years, Pres­i­dent Trump went from de­spair­ing that his pres­i­dency would be de­stroyed by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe to ex­ult­ing Thurs­day that his ex­on­er­a­tion sig­ni­fies “game over” for his par­ti­san tor­men­tors.

When the pres­i­dent learned in May 2017 that Mr. Mueller had been ap­pointed to in­ves­ti­gate sus­pected col­lu­sion by the Trump cam­paign with Rus­sia, Mr. Trump slumped in a chair and ex­claimed, “I’m f—d,” ac­cord­ing to the spe­cial coun­sel’s 400-page re­port.

“This is the end of my pres­i­dency,” Mr. Trump told close aides.

But with the re­lease of the Mueller re­port show­ing no col­lu­sion and no ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, Mr. Trump told a cheer­ing au­di­ence of vet­er­ans at the White House with un­der­state­ment, “I’m hav­ing a good day.”

For­mer Trump at­tor­ney John M. Dowd, who de­fended the pres­i­dent for about a year dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, called Mr. Trump’s ini­tial re­coil­ing from the spe­cial coun­sel’s ap­point­ment “an emo­tional re­ac­tion.”

After that, the pres­i­dent fought back pub­licly with in­creas­ing in­ten­sity against what he called the “witch hunt.” Be­hind the scenes, the pres­i­dent and his at­tor­neys fol­lowed a strat­egy of co­op­er­at­ing fully with Mr. Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever frus­trat­ing it was for Mr. Trump.

“He got through it be­cause he does have a fight game in him,” said a Repub­li­can close to the White House. “That’s all the guy knows, is fight, fight, fight.”

Mr. Dowd said the pres­i­dent sur­vived the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause he co­op­er­ated fully, by turn­ing over mil­lions of doc­u­ments to the Mueller team and de­clin­ing to as­sert ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege over any in­for­ma­tion.

“To me, all the credit goes to the pres­i­dent,” Mr. Dowd said. “Even not as­sert­ing ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege — that’s how we got the in­for­ma­tion to Mueller so quickly. We gave Bob ev­ery­thing.” The in­ves­ti­ga­tors didn’t see it that way. Mr. Mueller felt Mr. Trump’s writ­ten answers, in­clud­ing more than 30 times he said he didn’t re­call some­thing, were in­ad­e­quate. The spe­cial coun­sel asked again late last year for an in-per­son in­ter­view with the pres­i­dent.

Mr. Trump again de­clined, and Mr. Mueller con­cluded it wasn’t worth the court bat­tle that would en­sue if he in­sisted on is­su­ing a sub­poena against the pres­i­dent for tes­ti­mony.

“We de­ter­mined that the sub­stan­tial quan­tity of in­for­ma­tion we had ob­tained from other sources al­lowed us to draw rel­e­vant fac­tual con­clu­sions on in­tent and cred­i­bil­ity,” the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

How­ever, Mr. Dowd said he is glad that the pres­i­dent pro­vided writ­ten answers to the spe­cial coun­sel’s ques­tions in­stead of giv­ing tes­ti­mony in per­son. Mr. Dowd said Mr. Mueller had no le­gal ba­sis for ques­tion­ing the pres­i­dent face-to-face.

Mr. Trump ag­i­tated with his ad­vis­ers to an­swer ques­tions in per­son, but his le­gal team warned the pres­i­dent that it was a per­jury trap. The at­tor­neys even­tu­ally won out.

“You can’t say the pres­i­dent de­prived them of any in­for­ma­tion,” he said. “I’m just glad he took our ad­vice even­tu­ally be­cause

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