Over the first 20 months of the Trump Presidency, there has been ongoing speculation and discussion concerning Trump’s character, cognitive ability, intellect, personality, etc., as these impact his ability to lead and govern the nation as President. Separate and apart from these issues is the Russia investigation and whether Russia coordinated with then candidate Trump or any member of his campaign team. The question as to whether President Trump will or will not speak with Robert Mueller during the investigation is a question that potentially bridges these matters.
Society has reached the unfortunate conclusion and tolerance that all politicians lie. This is especially true when the definition includes putting political spin on issues, which often tends to exaggerate to the extent of dishonesty. Even Republicans concede that President Trump has taken the art of making incorrect statements and assertions to new levels. He maintains the lies despite private and public proof of the facts. The key at this moment is whether that results from a serious character flaw as many surmised based on his dubious history or whether there were any other contributing factors such as cognitive functioning problems.
We also knew that President Trump did not read, and he routinely rejected detailed briefings, even on critical, complex national security matters. That raised legitimate questions about whether Trump was committed to serving as President and doing the job to the fullest because doing so required him to quickly master myriad issues and policies necessary to governing and leading the nation. Some believed he lacked the cognitive or intellectual ability to read, process, and learn the subject matter. Others asserted that he simply was not interested in doing so, after all, Trump stated repeatedly that he was brilliant. Unfortunately, he spoke vociferously about TPP, NAFTA, the Iran Nuclear Deal, et al, without ever reading or understanding those important documents.
Based on Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump Administration, Fear, there is now sufficient evidence in the public domain to conclude why President Trump can’t testify before the Grand Jury or sit for an interview with the Mueller team. These challenges also explain why he does not understand the issues he claims are hallmarks of his administration. First, Bob Woodward is a highly respected journalist with integrity beyond reproach. He is widely known for having strong support for anything on which he writes. The book discusses with ample detail and many examples that members of the Trump staff and cabinet suffered through significant concerns over his cognitive functions, lying, and other challenges that negatively impacted is ability to perform his duties and lead the nation. The staff was so concerned about what Trump would reveal, they prevented him from speaking with Woodward; although many others spent hours being interviewed.
As discussed on the book, multiple staff members would secretly remove documents from the President’s desk before he could see them or sign them for fear of his erratic behavior and actions inconsistent with the best interests of the nation. Defense Secretary James Mattis, the most respected member of the cabinet, believed President Trump had the intellect and world understanding of a 9 or 10-year-old. For the good of the country, he would placate the President, and then intentionally fail to execute the policy or directive. I remember the first time we studied the U.S. Constitution in school. It was 4th grade. The teacher told us this lesson would be very difficult, but it was important, so we should all pay attention. We spent about a week or so on it. I remember in 5th grade we studied the makeup of the federal government, including the cabinet. My understanding of the Constitution in 4th grade and the federal government in 5th grade exceeded the level of knowledge and understanding President Trump has displayed in office. And unlike the President, I make no claims of brilliance.
More importantly, the staff has confirmed the extensive amount of lying. Anyone who watches the news sees it every day. Does President Trump even know what is true and what is a lie at this point? The President’s legal team is greatly concerned over this and rightfully so. On one hand, it is up to the American people to react to the President’s constant lying. They will speak in large part with their votes, although this will not be the only issue on their minds in the voting booth.
President Trump insists he wants to speak to Mueller or testify before the grand jury. This rightfully terrifies his lawyers, including Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani. Former Trump lead attorney, John Dowd, who quit to a great extent because of this issue, frankly explained to Mueller that they simply could not allow their client (Trump) to be interviewed because he could not control the amount of false information he would spew. Mueller understood their dilemma. They did not go so far as to say whether it was due to cognitive decline (e.g., Trump could not discern between truth and falsity, perhaps resulting from dementia, delusions, or other neurological issue) or whether it was the result of a serious character flaw (e.g., Trump is a perpetual liar or woefully dishonest person).
Whatever the basis, the concern is legitimate. Either way, President Trump would provide false information to the Mueller team that could realistically result in a perjury charge. It is also probable that the President would make statements against his own legal interests and that tend to incriminate himself. Any competent attorney in such a case would do their best to convince the client not to speak to investigators or testify in court. However, the client ultimately makes the decision and President Trump may reject his attorneys’ advice and decide to speak to Mueller. Maybe he should. He has often stated he is his own best advocate.