In light of President Donald Trump’s insistence that White House aides ignore subpoenas from various House committees controlled by Democrats after the 2018 midterms, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman made the case that the president is terrified they won’t lie and defends him when faced with possible perjury charges.
“In keeping the focus on the Mueller report, Trump has homed in on one particular threat: former White House counsel Donald McGahn testifying in public,” Waldman writes. “McGahn’s story highlights what will be a key question for Trump and those around him as we dig down into this scandal, and perhaps others as well: How far will people around Trump go to defend him? Will they lie to the public? Will they lie under oath? Trump himself can’t be sure, which is a key reason that he is now moving to shut down any possibility that those who work for him will have to testify before Congress.”
Noting that the president has gone to great lengths to undercut McGahn despite what was reported in Robert Mueller’s report that Trump’s own Attorney General, Bill Barr approved for public consumption, Waldman says the president might not be able to declare “fake news” over public testimony about his misdeeds.
“So what we have here is Trump’s former counsel telling one story under oath to prosecutors, and Trump telling a different story. We should note here that Trump himself refused to answer questions in person from those prosecutors, because as his lawyers said many times, doing so would be a ‘perjury trap.’ In other words, he would have inevitably lied under oath and then been vulnerable to a perjury charge,” Waldman wrote.
The columnist went on to note other Trump aides who have whistled a different tune when placed under oath.
“Trump seems to have figured out that even the most loyal of his aides might be reluctant to perjure themselves on his behalf. Consider Sarah Sanders, who will dutifully go on TV and repeat any ridiculous lie Trump tells her to,” he wrote. “When she was questioned by prosecutors about her preposterous assertion that ‘countless members of the FBI’ had expressed support for Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, she admitted this was false.”
“Worst of all, congressional testimony would involve Trump aides potentially contradicting him in public, before the cameras. That’s much more dangerous than an anonymous quote in a news article,” he continued before pithily adding, “That’s the real reason Trump will refuse to allow anyone to testify. Not because congressional investigations are too partisan, not because of executive privilege, but because he doesn’t want to test his aides’ loyalty. Trump may have surrounded himself with liars and hacks, but there’s only so far even they are willing to go.”
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