“Answering those questions was a nightmare,” Giuliani told The Atlantic regarding his answers to Mueller’s questions. “It took him about three weeks to do what would normally take two days.” The report in The Atlantic by Elaina Plott also described how the White House has no game plan for issuing its own counter-report in response to the impending report that will be publicly submitted by the special counsel.
The lack of planning for potential outcomes of one of the highest-stakes investigations of the past two years illuminates many of the key operating principles of this White House—a follow-the-leader approach, a frequent resort to denial, and a staff constantly in flux. Many of those tactics have allowed Trump to maintain favor with his base, but Mueller’s report will represent the biggest test yet of how they fare against legal, rather than political, challenges. And that test was likely sharpened on Tuesday night, when Mueller revealed in a court filing that former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn had cooperated extensively with his investigation.
It’s not that White House officials are altogether unwilling to confront the topic. But many current and former White House staffers I spoke to stressed the problem that has plagued them since the beginning of Trump’s presidency: making plans and sticking to them when the “communicator in chief” will, inevitably, prefer his own approach.
Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine reviewed the timeline of the supposed counter-report that was expected to rebut Mueller’s own report:
On July 30, USA Today first divulged the coming counter-report. “Giuliani’s own team worked on its ‘counter-report,’” the story noted, “which he said would be released after his team reviewed whatever Mueller filed with the Justice Department,” which he expected to occur by September 1. That gave Giuliani less than a month to finish.
On August 12, the Wall Street Journal included a brief update: “Mr. Trump’s attorneys are preparing their own report, part of which rebuts accusations from James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation director fired by Mr. Trump in May 2017, according to Mr. Giuliani.”
On August 30, the Daily Beast had a much more extensive update on the counter-report. It was “quite voluminous,” Giuliani boasted. “The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn’t done yet … It needs an executive summary if it goes over a hundred.” Giuliani said the first draft would be “in pretty good shape by next week,” though a more cautious source told the Daily Beast that “those involved expect the counter-report to be ready to go in the next two to three weeks.”
Chait also mentioned that, in a Sept. 10 issue of The New Yorker, Giuliani claimed the counter-report was already 45 pages long.
Giuliani’s harrowing description of the process of helping Trump answer Mueller’s questions contradicts Trump’s own description of that same process last month, when he said that “my lawyers don’t write answers. I write answers. I was asked a series of questions. I’ve answered them very easily. Very easily. I’m sure they’re tripped up because, you know, they like to catch people, ‘Gee, was the weather sunny or was it rainy? He said it may have been a good day. It was rainy. Therefore he told a lie. He perjured himself!’ Okay? So you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people who probably have bad intentions.”