The NY Times reports a conflict that doesn't exist. "Lawyers for President Trump have advised him against sitting down for a wide-ranging interview with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III…. Their stance puts them at odds with Mr. Trump, who has said publicly and privately that he is eager to speak with Mr. Mueller."
A show of hands, please, from those of you who believed Trump when he said last month, "I’m looking forward to it, actually…. There’s been no collusion whatsoever. There’s no obstruction whatsoever, and I’m looking forward to" meeting with Mueller. The Times also notes that Trump "has bragged to some aides that he would be able to clear himself if he talked to Mr. Mueller’s team" — but that, my friends, is "actual" locker room talk: mere bravado over real balls. Trump never intended to meet with Mueller, and now, like the cowardly lion, he's getting the pacifist advice he needed. "Damn. My lawyers say no."
Moreover, his lawyers are giving the only reasonable advice there is to give — advice everyone was expecting. They're "concerned" — I like that; "concerned," not worried sick — "that the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself…." You know how that sentence ends. In fact, rather than writing that Trump has a history of lying, the Times could have safely written that Trump's history is a singular one of lying. The lawyers know their client. (And in knowing him, they get their paychecks, I suspect, in advance of giving advice.)
I do question, however, whether Trump's lawyers know Robert Mueller. The Times reports that they — as well as some of Trump's White House aides — "believe the special counsel might be unwilling to subpoena the president and set off a showdown with the White House that Mr. Mueller could lose in court." Their legal reasoning seems specious: "They are convinced that Mr. Mueller lacks the legal standing to question Mr. Trump about some of the matters he is investigating, like the president’s role" in lying about his son's Trump Tower meeting with Russians and "allegations that the president asked James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to end the investigation into the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn." In other words, Trump's lawyers and aides are convinced that Mueller lacks the standing to question Trump about virtually all matters that Mueller is questioning? Sounds a bit shaky.
Plus, the legal scuttlebutt is that concerning a subpoena, Mueller can have his way. In refusing to let loose of his tapes, Dick Nixon's arrogant (and conspicuously culpable) intransigence was the precedent; the Supreme Court ruled, as the NYT puts it, that "the president, like every American, was not above the law and had to comply with the special prosecutor's request." And as former solicitor general Neal Katyal puts it, "In general, presidents do sit for interviews or respond to requests from prosecutors because they take their constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws seriously, and running away from a prosecutor isn’t consistent with faithfully executing the laws." There are, of course, two problems here when it comes to Trump: He's reliably inconsistent when it comes to faithfully executing the laws — so what, him worry?; and neither is the Supreme Court always consistent with the traditional, guiding concept of stare decisis.
The one Trump lawyer who has consistently advised cooperation over confrontation is Ty Cobb. On Twitter, lawyer-poet Seth Abramson speculated that Cobb's opposing advice has been, perhaps, a way to force Trump to tell the truth for once in his life. (Briefly, Trump might eventually be honest with Cobb if Cobb keeps calling his bluff of pure innocence, which is staggeringly unbelievable and legally perilous.) One other possibility, wrote Abramson, is that "Cobb wants to offer an interview with strict conditions so Mueller can reject it and Trump can say — in the court of public opinion — 'I tried to cooperate, but this bad man decided to subpoena me, instead.'" This, Abramson calls "a sh*tty strategy" — if a working strategy it be — "because an interview is far better for Trump than a grand jury appearance — in the former, your lawyer is present, you're in a comfortable space, you may be able to set ground rules. In a grand jury, your lawyer isn't there — you're at the prosecutor's mercy."
Either way, Trump is more at the mercy of monumental reality. He's dirty, and he's left a perceptible trail of iniquity as long as his ties. I mean, come on, he confessed obstruction to Lester Holt on video tape.
If only, say, Jimmy Buffett were ruling as our philosopher king. In 1996 his landing private plane was shot at by Jamaican police, who mistook it for a drug-running craft. Buffett didn't sue, saying instead that he figured his travail was karma. Which is to say, a thoughtful, philosophical president would graciously accept his fate and resign.