Despite finally seeming to turn back on the very Democrats who first pushed it, the Russia/Trump collusion narrative just isn’t ready to die. Or perhaps, the leftist media – The New York Times in particular – just won’t let it die. The Times recently published a story after interviewing President Trump in the Oval Office. The interviewers asked many leading questions about the Russian investigation – one even asked if Mr. Mueller’s digging into the Trump finances beyond dealings with Russia would constitute a “red line.” The story seems to say that Mr. Trump definitively set a red line for Mueller, but the transcript of the interview is far less conclusive. Is The Times straining to keep the floundering Russia story afloat?
The fifty-minute interview covered a lot of ground, but once the conversation went to Russia, the interviewers clung tight to it and wouldn’t let go – apparent to anyone privy to the conversation, though not exactly made clear in the resultant article. “While the interview touched on an array of issues, including health care, foreign affairs and politics, the investigation dominated the conversation,” the writer claims. In truth, the majority of the questions regarded issues connected to the Russian investigation. According to The Times:
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
President Trump did point out some conflicts of interest that came from Mr. Mueller’s appointment as special counselor – even going so far as to say that he would expose and discuss more of them in the future. Robert Mueller’s current position is rife with such conflicts, as Liberty Nation’s Sarah Cowgill explains. He also, as The Times accurate reports, did not threaten to have Mr. Mueller removed. However, the rest of the quote above is somewhat misleading – though the writer was careful to avoid any outright lies. For example, the president’s “warning” and the “red line” actually came from the interviewer’s questions – even his confirmation of the red line isn’t nearly as conclusive as The Times would have us believe.
Let’s examine the second paragraph of the above quote. First, it is unclear whether President Trump said “I would say yes” to the question about the red line or a different one asked immediately after. From the transcript:
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?
HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes.
The president went on to explain that he didn’t make money off Russia, though it was possible that some Russian might have bought one of his condos or something similar. But the President could just have easily been responding to Haberman’s question as Schmidt’s – nothing in his answer clarifies the issue. The second quote in the paragraph actually comes from his answer to a different question:
SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?
HABERMAN: Would you consider——
TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company.
Despite the way the writer craftily positioned the “violation” quote, President Trump answered “no” to the question “but if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go,” or perhaps it answered whatever Mr. Trump imagined Haberman intended for his unfinished question. Either way, Mr. Trump made it clear that this is supposed to be about Russia. It’s not clear though, given the context, what would be a violation – Mueller digging beyond the Russia investigation or his removal should he try. Once again, there was more to President Trump’s answer, but it contained no warning.
The interviewers tried one final time to lead the President into saying that Mueller would have to go:
HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]
SCHMIDT: What would you do?
TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.
In his final answer – quoted in its entirety here due to its brevity – President Trump refused yet again to say that he would remove Mr. Mueller for overstepping any limits of the investigation. Indeed, he doesn’t think the special counsel will do it. Still, there is no stern warning, as The Times seems to want us to believe. Rather, the President seems simply tired of the manufactured drama surrounding the Russian investigation. As he told the Times reporters, “I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.” But The New York Times, like so many others, just can’t let it go.