Rudy Guliani and Jay Sekulow have been doing all manner of exotic contortions to explain away why the president, who says he would love to talk to special prosecutor Mueller, just can’t seem to get to it. It’s that ominous perjury trap, you see.
Many legal experts have pushed back on this spurious claim by noting that there is no such thing in the real world as a perjury trap. Simply tell the truth and there is no perjury, so no trap. But that simple act appears to be beyond the president’s capabilities.
Rudy and Jay push back that there is, indeed, such a thing as a perjury trap, and they have right-wing media’s megaphone attempting to lend legitimacy to this nonsense. They say that Mueller would try to trick the President, simple-minded “innocent” that they want us to believe he is, into saying something that contradicts something innocuous he might have said earlier. Even an innocent exageration or mis-remembering could put the president in jeapordy of “perjury.”
Here’s the problem with that argument. Exaggerating, mis-remembering, even lying, isn’t perjury unless that lie is told under oath. Anything the president may have said before sitting down, under oath, with special counsel attorneys can’t be perjury unless he said that earlier thing under oath and it is provably untrue and material to their investigation.
Perjury isn’t a gotcha game. Perjury is a crime because telling the truth under oath, is an essential component of our criminal justice system. The threat of a perjury conviction is a tool used to protect the justice system and all of us from those who might bear false witness against us. It is a legal tool, not a political tactic.
“Under oath” is the important, defining modifier for any accusation of perjury. As far as perjury is concerned, it doesn’t matter what Don Junior or Hope Hicks or Roger Stone told Trump or what he told them at any time in the past. What matters is what Donald Trump tells investigators under oath. If he testifies truthfully or lies in a way the investigators can’t prove what he told them under oath is untrue, there is no perjury. So no trap.
If Trump says “I can’t remember” what Hope Hicks told me on such and such a date, and that is a lie, how would Mueller’s investigators prove that what he said about not remembering the lie? No perjury. No trap. Maybe some concern about his mental capacity. But no perjury.
Rudy and Jay’s real problem is that the moron in the Oval Office could quite accidentally get a lot of people around him in big legal trouble simply by answering questions as he always does, off the top of his head with on logic filter. The bumbling fool would, as he often has, wreck havoc in the lives of everyone that sustains him by casually offering up unsolicited evidence of criminal behavior by his aides and family members and associates. They are the ones worried about sitting Trump down in front of Mueller’s investigators. Of course the liar in chief would walk away essentially unscathed because the Justice Department has a policy not to prosecute a sitting president.
The only ones who need fear a “pejury trap,” as Rudy and Jay know full well, are the family and professional associates of the pathological liar they call “Mr. President.” This is about keeping them out of jail.