With the recent arrival of Passover, my friend Jules joked that he invited Donald Trump over for the first night seder but the president declined. He heard about the traditional Four Questions and worried they’d turn into a deposition.
So what? Trump could order his lawyers to answer the questions in written form. That’s what he did for the Mueller report.
With the Four Questions, we ask, Why is this night different from all other nights?
For President Trump, the answer is: On all other nights, we’ve been awaiting the Mueller report. Its arrival seemed to take longer than Elijah’s.
When the report was finally released last week, we learned of a few things passed over until now. One was Trump’s lack of memory. This is a man who has told us he has “one of the great memories of all time.” Or sometimes he’s called it “the world’s greatest memory.”
And yet …
The president’s memory took an exodus when it came to the Mueller deposition. At Passover, we recall 10 Plagues. In Trump’s case, plagued by the special counsel’s questions, he failed more than 30 times to offer answers.
“I do not remember,” he said.
Or, “I do not recall.”
Or, “I have no recollection.”
Or, “I have no independent recollection.”
Or, “I have no current recollection.”
The Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem once remarked that even though Passover comes only once a year, Jews insist on asking questions all year long. Clearly, that’d be a waste of time with Trump — at least for any questions pertaining to the Mueller investigation.
Trump’s answers sounded half-baked. On Passover, we remember stories from a few thousand years ago. Trump said he couldn’t remember important events from a few years ago.
Or else – with his lawyers’ careful assistance — he used phrases that sounded un-Trumpian. It was Philip Roth who once said Trump had “a 48-word vocabulary.” But in his deposition, he uses phrases like “named entities” and “tangible support” and “no meaningful relationship.”
Does that sound like the language of the same man who doubles down on adjectives when he tries to make a point?
He says he didn’t remember the famous meeting at Trump Tower when his son, Donald Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign boss, Paul Manafort, met with a Russian operative promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
He also didn’t remember any advance notice of Russian hacking of Democratic emails.
Or any WikiLeaks discussions with his pal Roger Stone.
Or, astonishingly, any discussions about a possible trip to Russia to promote a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow that might have fattened Trump’s bankroll by millions of dollars.
He didn’t remember any of this stuff?
Does that sound like the unleavened truth?
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.