Nov 17, 2018

Trump's moment of truth

Photos: Christian Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images; Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Responding to questions from Robert Mueller is President Trump’s literal moment of truth.

Why it matters: Over his decades in public life, Trump has faced scant — if any — serious consequences for saying things that are not true. However, right now, in putting together his answers for the special counsel, that all changes.

Trump told reporters yesterday that he had finished, but not submitted, his answers for Mueller:

  • "My lawyers aren’t working on that. I’m working on that. I write the answers. 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 tricked up, because, you know, they like to catch people — 'Gee, you know, 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.'"
  • "OK? So you have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intentions."

It’s evident that Trump is acutely aware of the high price he would pay if he lies to the special counsel. His concern about that is entirely grounded in fact, and that’s why the process has dragged on for many months. 

  • We don't know what Trump has written as answers to these questions. But it’s hard to imagine Trump would tell Mueller anything that would incriminate himself or his family. Without direct knowledge of the contents of his answers, we feel on safe ground saying Trump isn’t handing Mueller any huge bombshells.
  • More than anything, for Trump, answering these questions — even though it’s in written form, and even though it dragged on — appears to be acquiescing to the legitimacy of the special counsel.
  • Once that letter gets sent, Trump will have accepted, in act if not in words, that Mueller is running a serious and important investigation, and that it behooves powerful people to give Mueller what he wants.

Between the lines: Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post that Trump is only answering questions about events prior to his election. If that’s true, it would indicate a certain level of success for the president’s legal team in evading cooperation with inquiries into potential obstruction of justice.

  • That said, it’s still a concession on the part of the White House to give answers from the president to Mueller.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 857,487 — Total deaths: 42,107 — Total recoveries: 178,034.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 188,172 — Total deaths: 3,873 — Total recoveries: 7,024.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 856,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

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White House projects 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths

President Trump said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the next two weeks in the U.S. will be "very painful" and that he wants "every American to be prepared for the days that lie ahead," before giving way to Deborah Birx to explain the models informing the White House's new guidance on the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's a somber new tone from the president that comes after his medical advisers showed him data projecting that the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health