Saturday, June 10, 2017


Will this really happen?
A defiant President Donald Trump said Friday he was willing to testify under oath about his conversations with James Comey....

"One hundred percent," Trump said when asked about his willingness to deliver sworn testimony.
Now, it's easy to imagine Trump dropping this subject and never returning to it. But it's also easy to imagine him enjoying the reaction to the bravado and deciding to stick with it for a while.

Maybe he really will give testimony under oath in some venue. If he does, and if anyone working for him has a sense of history, he could demand significant restrictions on the testimony. Recall the conditions under which George W. Bush and Dick Cheney testified before the 9/11 Commission:
The White House said on Tuesday that there would be no recording or formal transcription of the historic joint interview of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The interview ... will be recorded by two note takers, one from the White House.... the commission is permitted to take a note taker, but not a recording device. The panel said it did not press for a formal transcription of the session, letting the White House decide....

An adviser to Mr. Bush said a larger consideration was the concern that an official transcript would set a precedent for appearances by presidents before other commissions and create legal problems down the road.
In addition, Bush and Cheney insisted on testifying jointly.

In that case, Bush was not under oath -- but Trump might agree to an oath while imposing other conditions. And maybe there'll just be an impasse -- an agreement on conditions won't be reached but Trump will be able to claim he's ready to give sworn testimony.

If Trump testifies under oath but behind closed doors, details of his testimony will leak, but Trump will call any leaks that embarrass him "fake news." The right-wing media will back him up, and Trump's fan base will believe him. No elected Republican will contradict his version of the story, although some will probably engage in strenuous verbal gymnastics to avoid lying outright on his behalf.

Or maybe Trump really will testify under oath in an open session, unlikely as that seems. Would he put himself at legal risk this way? Sure he would. Remember, this is a guy who once sued a writer, Timothy O'Brien, who claimed he wasn't as rich as he claimed to be, which meant he had to give a deposition in which he was confronted with incontrovertible evidence that the writer was correct and he was wrong.

This, of course, is the famous 2007 deposition in which Trump said you couldn't pin down his net worth because it changed with his mood:
“My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings,” Trump said.
But as David Farenthold and Robert O'Harrow Jr. reported last year, Trump simply attempted to bullshit his way through many parts of the deposition:
The mogul had sent the note to a reporter, objecting to a story that said Trump owned a “small minority stake” in a Manhattan real estate project. Trump insisted that the word “small” was incorrect. Trump continued reading: “I wrote, ‘Is 50 percent small?’”

... The [deposition] questions began with that handwritten note and the 50 percent stake that wasn’t 50 percent.

“The 30 percent equates to much more than 30 percent,” Trump explained. His reasoning was that he had not been required to put up money at the outset, so his 30 percent share seemed more valuable.

“Are you saying that the real estate community would interpret your interest to be 50 percent, even though in limited partnership agreements it’s 30 percent?” [defense attorney Andrew] Ceresney asked.

“Smart people would,” Trump said....

“I was paid more than a million dollars,” Trump said when Ceresney asked how much he’d been paid for a speech in 2005 at New York City’s Learning Annex, a continuing-education center.

Ceresney was ready.

“But how much of the payments were cash?”

“Approximately $400,000,” Trump said.

Trump said his personal math included the intangible value of publicity: The Learning Annex had advertised his speech heavily, and Trump thought that helped his brand. Therefore, in his mind he’d been paid more than $1 million, even though his actual payment was $400,000.

“Do you actually say that, when you say you got a million dollars publicly?” Ceresney asked.

“I don’t break it down,” Trump said.
That's what Trump will do if he's under oath in open session: sling the bullshit and, in his own mind, walk away with his pride and reputation intact.

Trump clearly believes it's more important to be seen as someone who never backs down than it is for him to be vindicated -- if he doesn't concede the other side's point, in his mind he is vindicated. He lost that suit, but claimed it as a victory:
In a brief statement this week, Trump said he felt the lawsuit was a success, despite his loss.

“O’Brien knows nothing about me,” Trump said. “His book was a total failure and ultimately I had great success doing what I wanted to do — costing this third rate reporter a lot of legal fees.”

O’Brien, now executive editor of Bloomberg View, said Trump got that wrong. The publisher and insurance companies covered the cost.
Trump always wants to be the aggressor. Some of his defenders claim he would never have fired Comey to make Russiagate go away because he'd certainly realize that doing so would only draw fire -- but to Trump that doesn't matter, because aggression is the only move he knows when he's challenged.

So maybe he will testify under oath sometime.

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