Trump frustrated with aides who talked to Mueller

President Trump is venting frustration with associates who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after their notes and first-hand observations were used to paint a negative and damaging picture of his presidency.

Even as the White House reveled in what it saw as a generally positive news cycle in the hours following the release of the Mueller report, Trump made his dissatisfaction clear.

“Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, less than 24 hours after the report’s release.

Some of the statements about him in the “Crazy Mueller Report” are “total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),” he added.

{mosads}Sources close to Trump say the change in tone over the Mueller report, which he has previously called a “complete and total exoneration,” is rooted in his hatred of the notion that he can be controlled by his own staff.

Media coverage of the report has focused on efforts by Trump aides to ignore or undermine his attempts to curb Mueller’s investigation, accounts of which were detailed in Mueller’s 448-page, partially redacted report released Thursday.

“He’s crapping on your narrative of trying to create discord in his administration. He’s saying, ‘no it’s not true,’ ” Bryan Lanza, a former campaign and transition official, said of Trump.

Some allies said Trump would be better off simply declaring victory and moving on.

They said former aides may have saved the president from facing obstruction charges by failing to carry out some of his orders. And they said those interviewed by Mueller and his team had no choice but to tell the truth because they were speaking under penalty of perjury or lying to the FBI.

“Yes, I understand why the president is frustrated but the alternative would have been far, far worse,” said one former administration official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “He’s probably letting some of the details frustrate him too much. He shouldn’t let it cloud the bigger picture, because the bigger picture is a win for him.”

How long Trump broods over the report depends in large part on whether the media dwells on the sprawling document, the sources said.

Trump on Thursday traveled to his Mar-a-Lago estate with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Steven Groves, a White House spokesman on legal matters, in addition to his usual cadre of aides including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a sign his attention may be glued to the Mueller fallout through the holiday weekend.

The Mueller report laid out in vivid detail Trump’s fears of the Mueller probe, and his efforts to undermine it or kill it. The report underscored the access Mueller’s team had to the inner workings of the White House through people close to the president.

Former White House counsel Don McGahn is a prime target for Trump, according to one source familiar with the president’s thinking, since he was a senior aide who supplied a number of damaging stories about the president.

McGahn characterized Trump’s orders to oust Mueller as “crazy shit” and is depicted as telling Trump in a private conversation he was keeping notes because he is a “real lawyer” after the president challenged his decision to tell Mueller about efforts to get rid of the special counsel.

Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary, may also come into Trump’s crosshairs because he testified that he ignored the president’s instructions to see if then-No. 3 Justice Department official Rachel Brand could take over the Russia probe.

Former White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn told investigators he refused to pressure then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take control of the investigation.

Notes from Sessions’s chief of staff Jody Hunt’s showed Trump lamented that he was “f—ed” because of Mueller’s hiring.

And White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted she misled reporters about James Comey’s firing as FBI director.

Even before the report was released on Thursday, Trump’s aides and advisers who spoke to Mueller were reportedly worried about what the report would reveal. Trump’s reaction showed their fears may have been justified.

Hours after the report was published, the president was determined to show he was the one calling the shots.

“I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to,” he tweeted on Thursday evening.

{mossecondads}Trump’s frustrations with staff have been a hallmark of his White House.

Just this month, the president cleaned house at the Department of Homeland Security after he grew restless with top officials perceived to be slow-walking White House adviser Stephen Miller’s immigration directives.

An unnamed senior administration official penned a widely shared op-ed in The New York Times in September titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The piece prompted Cabinet secretaries and other officials to deny they were behind the column, which detailed efforts to foil the president’s agenda.

Bob Woodward reported in his book, “Fear,” that former top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn sought to stop Trump from withdrawing the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea by removing a document ordering the move from his desk. He reportedly took similar action with a letter that would have pulled the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Cohn resigned from his position in March 2018 amid disagreements with the president over his tariff policies.

While the Mueller report mostly contained accounts from ex-officials and campaign hands, also including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former chief of staff John Kelly and former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, the fallout could hit people still in the West Wing.

As Sanders and other White House aides have made the rounds on cable news to tout the report as a vindication of the president, they’ve been forced to grapple with questions about their own credibility and Trump’s efforts to hinder the investigation.

One informal adviser to Trump said the report was “devastating” to the White House press secretary because her admission that she made a misleading statement has effectively limited her ability to hold briefings, adding that “it’s really frustrating that we have lost the podium.”

Since Sanders sat with Mueller’s team on July 3, 2018, she has conducted just 14 briefings inside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio correspondent and unofficial White House historian..

But people inside the White House disagree with that characterization, and the source familiar with Trump’s thinking said there is “no animosity” toward Sanders.

Rather than concede she misled reporters, Sanders stated in interviews following the Mueller report’s release that the sentiment of her comments was accurate. She reiterated that her inaccurate comments, repeated multiple times over multiple days, was made “in the heat of the moment.”

“It wasn’t a scripted talking point,” she said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I’m sorry that I wasn’t a robot like the Democrat Party that went out for two-and-a-half years and stated time and time again that there was definitely Russian collusion between the president and his campaign.”

Still, after a grueling two-plus years under the microscope of the Russia probe, Trump’s spokespeople insisted he was not too consumed with the aftermath of the report.

Roughly an hour after publishing his Friday morning tweets, which ended in an ellipsis as if in the middle of an unfinished thought, Trump decamped for his private golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“Obviously he’s always relaxed, but also engaged when he’s down there,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News. “But I imagine he may play a little golf today, we’ll see depending on the weather and depending on his mood.”

By Friday afternoon, the White House announced that Trump had hit the links with conservative talk radio host and staunch Mueller critic Rush Limbaugh.

And Trump finished his string of tweets nine hours after starting it by calling for a new investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. 

“It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason,” he wrote. “This should never happen again!”

Updated 5:06 p.m.

Tags Corey Lewandowski Donald Trump Gary Cohn James Comey Jeff Sessions John Kelly Mick Mulvaney Robert Mueller

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