Muellermas hangover: Giuliani attacks McGahn testimony for some reason


One can kinda-sorta understand why opponents of Donald Trump resist (so to speak) acknowledging the end of Russiagate. Less clear is the impulse for Trump’s team to continue litigating the W. Rudy Giuliani went on the attack late yesterday, claiming that the extensive testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn couldn’t be trusted. Giuliani followed up on a line of attack that started earlier in the day from Trump himself:

Mr. Giuliani’s statement was the most extensive pushback by the president’s lawyers against the former counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, who cooperated extensively with the special counsel’s investigators. The report detailing the findings of the investigation, released on Thursday, also included several damning examples of how Mr. Trump tried to interfere with the investigation, like Mr. McGahn’s account.

“It can’t be taken at face value,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview. “It could be the product of an inaccurate recollection or could be the product of something else.”

Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, pushed back on Mr. Giuliani’s attack.

“It’s a mystery why Rudy Giuliani feels the need to relitigate incidents the attorney general and deputy attorney general have concluded were not obstruction,” Mr. Burck said. “But they are accurately described in the report.”

Mystery, indeed. Trump wasted no time launching an attack on McGahn (“total bulls***,” “fabricated”) yesterday for having claimed to take contemporaneous notes while meeting with the president, which is pretty much SOP for most lawyers. (As the Mueller report details, Trump claims his old attorney Roy Cohn never needed them.) Trump going on the attack is less mysterious; that’s practically his brand, and it’s part of his personality. He spent the last two years attacking almost everyone involved in the investigation, including members of his own administration, but most of it meant little besides id-venting.

Other than that, what’s the point? It’s true that the anecdotes from Volume II don’t make Trump look very good. It’s also true that Mueller let him off the hook, legally speaking. Even the derogatory value of those stories focus on Trump character traits long in evidence before the election. As a political broadside, it’s not going to do much damage, and almost all of it will be short-term. Americans have tired out on Russiagate, especially since the core hypothesis — that Trump colluded with Russia to pervert the election — turned out to be nonsense. Four or five weeks from now, the only people who will care what McGahn had to say to Mueller will be media figures who deeply invested themselves in the Russiagate nonsense in the first place.

That is, everyone will move on as long as the White House moves on. Arguing over McGahn’s credibility is a loser strategy. For one thing, it increases McGahn’s value to those same media figures, elevating him to a much higher level of visibility than he’d otherwise have, and for longer too. Second, it leaves the impression that the Volume II anecdotes are a serious problem for Trump and might create more voter interest in that gossipy part of the report. Finally, if the White House moves on, they can more easily paint the media and Democrats as poisonous obsessives for not accepting the report and shifting their focus to more weighty matters. The more Giuliani and Trump keep picking at the scab, the more they make the report news rather than history.

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