In an interview with Fox News, Donald Trump said that former special counsel Robert Mueller “made such a fool out of himself,” and referred to a letter issued by the Justice Department as “the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony, because his testimony was wrong.” Trump made the statements in an interview recorded with Fox host Laura Ingraham.
Ingraham: Do you mind still if Mueller testifies? Before you said you didn’t care if Mueller testifies.
Trump: Let me … let me tell you. He made such a fool out of himself, the last time she ... because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong.
Trump then went on to try and hang a new nickname on Nancy Pelosi, call her a “disaster,” and saying, “I think they’re in big trouble” as part of his response to a question about Mueller testifying before Congress.
The only problem with Trump’s statement on Mueller is … everything. First, there was no need for Mueller to “straighten out his testimony” because Mueller has never given testimony. He made a brief 10-minute public statement that mostly consisted of announcing that he was retiring and giving thanks to his team. That was not testimony. Testimony is what Mueller will provide when he sits down with Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee in the near future.
Second, the “letter he had to do” was a letter generated jointly by the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office in an attempt to explain that there was “no conflict” between Mueller’s statement that, under Justice Department rules, he had not been allowed to charge Trump, and earlier statements by Barr claiming that Mueller had not said that he would have charged Trump but for those rules. Not only was the letter not something Mueller “had to do,” but it was something he didn’t write.
The joint letter came from two officials in charge of public relations, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec and spokesman for the special counsel’s office Peter Carr. Nothing in the letter “straightened out” anything that Mueller had said. It was simply a carefully worded way of papering over what Barr had said. Which it did through the muddiest of water-muddying efforts. Compare these two statements:
One: “The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice ...”
Two: “The Special Counsel’s report and his statement today made clear that the office concluded it would not reach a determination—one way or the other—about whether the President committed a crime. There is no conflict between these statements.”
Far straightening things out, what the second statement says is exactly the opposite of what the first statement says. As Mueller said in person to Barr, in the report, and behind the lectern at the Justice Department, he did not feel that the rules allowed him either to indict Trump or even to accuse him of a crime. His understanding from the beginning of the investigation was that it was his task to bring evidence before the Congress for its consideration.
Mueller hasn’t testified. He didn’t need to correct anything in his public statement. And Donald Trump got everything dead wrong.
Also worth noting: Notable bone-spur survivor Trump made these comments against the backdrop of a Normandy cemetery on D-Day, demeaning a Marine veteran who has a Purple Heart and two awards for valor under fire.
All of which is, sadly, completely as expected.