Donald Trump’s lawyers were likely wise to walk back the president’s recent boast that he would be happy to answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller under oath. A journalist whom Trump once sued said that when Trump was deposed under oath, he was reckless, “overconfident” and unprepared.
On Wednesday, the president told reporters that he was “looking forward” to answering Mueller’s questions “under oath” as part of the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign team and Russia.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb quickly informed The New York Times that the president only intended to say he was willing to meet with Mueller, adding nothing about any agreement to speak under oath. “He’s ready to meet with them, but he’ll be guided by the advice of his personal counsel,” Cobb said.
That’s a good move for Trump, wrote Timothy L. O’Brien, a Bloomberg editor, on Thursday. Otherwise it would be time for the president’s attorneys to “grab the worry beads,” he quipped.
Trump sued O’Brien for libel in 2006, claiming that a book O’Brien had written ― TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald ― underestimated the real estate mogul’s wealth and misrepresented his business record. Trump lost the lawsuit in 2011.
But before the case was over, he sat for two days of deposition under oath. Trump was forced to admit he lied 30 times, O’Brien wrote Thursday. (Longtime Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz represented him in the case.)
O’Brien, who is a former executive editor at HuffPost, wrote that Trump had a tough time holding his own against shrewd attorneys. He also demonstrated his “well-known inability to stick to the facts and a tendency to dissemble and improvise,” O’Brien wrote. “While under oath, he’ll try to avoid saying that he’s lied in the past — until he’s presented with documentation proving otherwise.”
How do you “differentiate between exaggeration and a lie?” Trump was asked in reference to the price of a real estate property. He responded, “You want to put the best spin on a property. No different than any other real estate developer, no different than any other businessman, no different than any politician.”
Unfortunately for Trump in that case, the opposing attorney had the actual property sales figure.
Mueller will likely have Trump’s previous statements, witness accounts and even emails and other documentation to challenge him during questioning if the president doesn’t stick to the facts, O’Brien warned.
The decision by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey against Trump’s libel suit noted that it was “indisputable that Trump’s estimates of his own worth changed substantially over time and thus failed to provide a reliable measure.” It cited a section of Trump’s testimony to make the point. When he was asked if he had been “completely truthful” in his public statements about the net worth of his properties, he answered, “I try.”
Asked if he had ever “not been truthful,” Trump responded, “My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with ... attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try. ... So, yeah, even my own feelings affect my value to myself.”