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