I somehow missed this very important passage in the New York Times report about John Dowd leaving Trump’s legal team last week. According to the times, one of the key disagreements between them was whether to testify for Mueller. Dowd wanted him to avoid it, Trump wants to do it.
After days of uncertainty among the president’s lawyers about their status, Mr. Dowd ultimately broke with Mr. Trump over whether he should agree to be questioned in the inquiry, a person briefed on the matter said.
Mr. Dowd viewed an interview as too risky; the president reiterated shortly after Mr. Dowd resigned that he wanted to clear his name. “I would like to,” the president told reporters at the White House when asked about meeting with investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. “I would like to.”
Mr. Dowd’s departure cleared the way for the president to embrace a more aggressive posture toward the investigation and marked another reshuffling of personnel for Mr. Trump.
First of all, he really has no choice. He can try to delay it and try to negotiate limits on it, but he cannot refuse a subpoena to testify just because he’s president. There is no such authority to be found anywhere in the Constitution and the judicial precedents all say otherwise. So one way or the other, he’s going to end up having to testify, the only question is under what conditions (and then only because Mueller is extending some courtesy he doesn’t legally have to extend).But this is another example of how Trump is driven almost exclusively by his own psychological and character flaws rather than by intelligence or good strategy. If you tell him that testifying is a bad idea, that he might say something to hurt himself, even if completely by accident, his ego can’t stand it. He views himself as virtually omniscient, as smarter than everyone else, and as so overwhelmingly charming and charismatic that he can bullshit his way out of anything. He’s going to find out that he is very, very wrong (not that he’ll ever admit that, even to himself, but you try to B.S. Mueller and you’re going to end up being nailed to the wall).
Dowd’s recognition of reality will only help push Trump even more in a direction that is wrong for him but best for the country. When he does testify, he’s going to implode. To be sure, he’ll walk away from it blissfully unaware of how badly he screwed up and utterly convinced that he had been so brilliant and persuasive that Mueller would be sending him a note of apology and ending his investigation soon. And then when the opposite happens, he’ll rage at Mueller and everyone around him, including those who told him what was going to happen before it happened.