This description of how Trump operates makes it a little bit harder to prove intent to obstruct -- but only if you see it in a vacuum.
January 27, 2018

Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell read a segment from the New York Times story about how Trump wanted to fire Mueller, and was stopped by Don McGahn threatening to quit.

"Let me give a slightly different context than the New York Times gives," Wolff said.

"They make it sound like Trump thought about it, sat down, determined that he should fire -- that he should fire Mueller, that he should act on this, and then told McGahn to carry this out.

"And that's not untrue. But the difference is, he does this constantly. Every day, the president is saying he's going to fire somebody. Anybody who he feels is -- has annoyed him, irritated him, gotten in his way, disagreed with him, is going to be fired. The firing of Mueller was talked about by Trump, especially in this June, July period, before his legal team really got in and took over, this became an obsession with the president. He had to get rid of Mueller.

"But an obsession with this president becomes, instead of -- instead of an order, it becomes kind of like wallpaper, it just goes on and on and on," he said.

"He just repeats and repeats and repeats. Is it serious? Is it just him spouting off ultimately that's what the special prosecutor will have to decide. And it's a key thing, because the special prosecutor has to prove intent. If he's just a crazy person, which, in part he is, it's going to be very hard to prove intent. So was there a moment in which he directed this to happen? Well, actually, yes, but there were hundreds of moments in which he does that and in which everybody sort of deflects.

"Equally, the Times has McGahn threatening to quit. Probably threatened to quit a hundred times. Actually what they say in -- even now, McGahn would like to get out of there, they just can't find somebody else to replace him. so they have to come and each time beg him to stay."

O'Donnell ask about a quote in the book where Steve Bannon tells Wolff, " 'If he fires Mueller, it just brings impeachment quicker.' Was that the widespread view in the White House?"

"Completely. Everybody believed firing Mueller would be suicidal. And everybody had to deal with this every day, it was always 'fire Mueller, how can we fire Mueller, get rid of this guy?' And again, this was regarded as something less than real. It was just the stuff that comes out of the president's mouth uncontrollably and often meaninglessly," Wolff said.

O'Donnell asks if this is a workplace where no one takes what he says seriously.

"Yes. The question is -- but even that -- that's always going on. The efforts to resign because nobody wants to be there. So it's this -- it's a kind of -- the New York Times curiously makes this sound normal. Even though --"

"What do you mean normal?" O'Donnell said.

"It makes it sound like there is a man who has thought through something and made a decision. There are no decisions here. It's just blather. Of course, blather can be a decision. The Comey firing. nobody expected it to happen, and then it happened because he did it on his own. He just went rogue and suddenly it happened. So I believe that everybody expected and continues to expect Mueller to be fired. But how that happens is a -- it's a kind of a three-dimensional thing, because every day he's firing Mueller. So how does it become -- how does that go from this kind of, you know, the president -- presidential gas to it actually happening?" Wolff replied.

"It's making that case for his lawyers to try to make that presentation of the character is made virtually impossible because of his job. Meaning, a prosecutor and the people looking into this aren't going to believe that a president is just that nutty and flaky and constantly saying things that aren't really true"?

"I don't know if that's true," Wolff said. "I think that is what -- is what Mueller -- they ultimately -- that will be the ultimate question. Was there intent here or is -- or was this just daily stupidity, really? Incompetence, disregard."

Wolff isn't a lawyer, and I don't believe it presents the legal obstacle he thinks it does. The Times story in a vacuum is probably not enough to show intent to obstruct. The grand jury can infer intent by a pattern of firing anyone who presents a threat to or investigates his administration: Sally Yates, Preet Bharara, James Comey, and now Mueller.

In a normal world, though, we wouldn't have to parse these things. The Republicans would do their jobs and wield the power to impeach, which is the real remedy for this kind of madness.

Elections matter. Vote in November and give Dems the majority they need to impeach.

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