It sounds insane. Trump says he’s “looking forward” to being interviewed by Special Counsel Bob Mueller, and his legal team has been negotiating for weeks to determine the conditions under which that might happen.

This despite the fact lying to the FBI is a criminal offense, and Trump tells a whopper almost six times a day.

Is it all a show? I don’t think so. I think it’s the better of two bad options, and potentially a very smart play.

Mueller will ask Trump why he fired Comey. Trump will say he had every legal right to do so (true), and that with both the Clinton and Russia investigations, Comey had become a lightning rod for publicity and criticism that was affecting the credibility of the FBI and providing a distraction from their vital work (highly debatable).

Mueller will ask if Trump knew about the meetings Jr., Kushner, Sessions, Flynn, Papadopolous, etc. etc. etc. were having with the Russians. Trump will say he was too busy running for president to pay attention to staff work.

Mueller will ask if he enquired about who McCabe voted for. Trump will say he was just making conversation.

Mueller will ask if Trump demanded loyalty from Comey. Trump will say he was asking for teamwork, and that while he may not have made the best choice of words, in the business world from which he comes you don’t have to be so punctilious about language when talking to your subordinate face to face.

None of the answers are satisfying. But they’re also not terrible. Collectively they might establish a pattern of behavior that constitutes obstruction of justice. For the sake of the next paragraph, let’s assume that they do.

Is Mueller going to bring criminal charges against a sitting president (something it’s not clear he can do), overturning the expressed will of the people (as translated by the Electoral College), because the guy asked a subordinate who he voted for? I think that’s extremely unlikely. And that means the day after the interview, Huckster Sanders will be saying that Trump “cooperated fully” and the “FBI found no evidence of collusion or obstruction.”

State (formerly “Fox”) News will jump on the story, and call it all a tempest in a teacup. And Trump will sail until the end of his term.

Now, let’s imagine a different scenario. Trump refuses to testify, for a variety of spurious reasons. That makes it look like he’s got something to hide. Then to get rid of the gremlin on his back, Trump fires Mueller — as we now know he tried to do in June. That makes him look REALLY guilty.

And it’s a huge gift to Dems running in 2018. If enough of them win, control of the House and possibly the Senate goes to the Blue Team, and Trump gets impeached.

In other words, this is more about politics and perception than it is perjury and points of law. Trump’s legal team may think it’s safer to take several small hits from Mueller, than one big one from the American public.🔷

(This piece was first published in The Blog!)

(Cover: Flickr/The White House/Joyce N. Boghosian - President Trump signing H.R. 195 – Federal Register Printing Savings Act of 2017 - 22 January 2018.)