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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The behavior of a guilty man

by digby

About all that collusion:

The Times' Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfield David report the encounter occurred in March 2017, shortly after Sessions first recused himself:
The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.
Mr. Sessions refused. 
The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.
Rather remarkably, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani seemed to tacitly confirm the episode in a comment to the Times. “Unrecuse’ doesn’t say, ‘Bury the investigation,’" Giuliani said. “It says on the face of it: Take responsibility for it and handle it correctly.”

In retrospect, it makes sense that this kind of episode would exist. On that list of 49 questions Trump's lawyers believe Mueller is interested in asking Trump, eight of them deal specifically with Sessions's recusal. It's been clear for a while that Trump was unhappy with that decision — and The Post has long reported Sessions has been a significant focus of Mueller's — but some questions seemed to allude specifically to an episode such as this:
“What did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions?”
“What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?”

That latter question was initially thought to refer to a previously reported effort by Trump to get White House counsel Donald McGahn to prevent Sessions from recusing himself. Turns out, it also seems to have been about this episode. And given Trump seems to have attempted to stop, tried to reverse and repeatedly rued Sessions's decision, it's not unreasonable to think there might be other episodes we simply don't know about yet.

Other questions sure seem to point in that direction. For instance, one question was: “What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?” Trump reportedly asked Coats (in front of Pompeo) to try to help him get leniency for Michael Flynn, but this clearly isn't that.

Another question was: “What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel?” Another was: " ... What did you do when that consideration [of firing Mueller] was reported in January 2018?” Neither are entirely clear when it comes to the events they refer to. But the fact that the mystery of the Sessions questions above had a somewhat logical solution — another potential instance of behavior that could be interpreted as obstruction of justice — suggests there are very likely to be others. Did Trump take further action to try to undercut Mueller from the get-go? The lesson from this latest disclosure seems to be that it was likely.

Former federal prosecutor Harry Littman pointed out on MSNBC today that Trump's oft-repeated line that he never would have hired Jeff Sessions if he had told him that he would recuse himself indicates that he expected Session to pledge fealty to him no matter what happened in the future. He is the liege lord.

We have strong reason to doubt that Mueller will charge Trump with anything including obstruction of justice. (He might charge others close to him, of course.) And who knows what might happen with the conspiracy case, money laundering etc. But the obstruction case especially is likely going to end up in a report that may serve as the basis for impeachment. If he pushed Sessions to obstruct justice on his behalf, that may be an element that shakes loose some GOP senators. He's one of them.