Nov 17, 2018

1. 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.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Trump's big, empty beef with Twitter

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump finally acted on his now year-old threat to take action against social media platforms for alleged bias against conservatives. But so far, according to experts in both government and the industry, the threat looks mostly empty.

Driving the news: Trump escalated his war on Twitter Friday morning, tweeting repeatedly that the company needs to be regulated after it overnight added a warning label to a tweet of his calling for the military to start shooting looters, which violated Twitter’s rules against glorifying violence.

In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

The Third Police Precinct burns in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Demonstrators demanding justice burned a Minneapolis police station and took control of the streets around it last night, heaving wood onto the flames, kicking down poles with surveillance cameras and torching surrounding stores.

What's happening: The crowd was protesting the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose life was snuffed out Tuesday by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for about eight minutes.

Minneapolis mayor to Trump: “Weakness is pointing your finger” during a crisis

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired back at President Trump on Friday, after the president accused the mayor of weak leadership amid violence sparked by the killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.

Driving the news: Trump made his accusations in a pair of tweets early Friday, saying he would bring the national guard into Minneapolis if Frey couldn't “bring the City under control.”