President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE is ramping up attacks on Democrats over special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE’s probe, a strategy designed to stir up his base that the White House sees little political risk in pursuing.
Trump views the attacks as a way to go on offense ahead of his 2020 reelection race and to portray Democrats as focused more on impeaching and tearing him down than on the nation’s best interests.
In the roughly 10 days since the redacted report was published, Trump has taken repeated jabs at the special counsel and his team on Twitter, while stonewalling Democrats seeking to delve further into Mueller’s findings.
Trump on Monday tweeted that Mueller was “a great HERO to the Radical Left Democrats” but that the party is abandoning him because of the report’s core findings.
“We had 18 people that were Trump haters; that includes Mr. Mueller. He was a Trump hater,” Trump said Friday as he departed the White House for a speech to the National Rifle Association.
A night earlier, in a 45-minute, grievance-filled conversation with Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityBiden frustration with Fox News breaks through surface Briefing in brief: US commitment to NATO 'ironclad' CNN's Acosta on Doocy and Biden: 'We never got an apology' from Trump MORE, Trump described the Mueller investigation as a “coup” and pledged to look into its origins.
“This was an overthrow, and it’s a disgraceful thing,” the president said. “And I don’t — I think it’s far bigger than Watergate. I think it’s possibly the biggest scandal in political history in this country.”
One source familiar with the president’s thinking said shortly after the Mueller report’s release that the president’s focus was to “start playing offense.”
Another source close to the White House said Trump is still upset about the way he was portrayed during the Mueller probe and that the attacks are a largely risk-free strategy in the short-term, especially given the air time spent in the two years prior speculating over Trump’s culpability.
Trump’s decision to repeatedly go after Mueller has its critics.
Mattie Duppler, a Republican strategist, said while she understands Trump’s instincts, he’d be better served hammering home an economic message that will resonate with voters in 2020.
“The only reason [the Mueller report] really remains in the news cycle is because the president keeps talking about it,” Duppler said. “It would be wise for the president to pivot away from the Mueller report and focus on factors ultimately Americans will be voting on.”
But that’s not Trump’s view, and supporters of the president think he’s as likely to step up the attacks as he is to scale them back. Most of his backers are comfortable with the strategy as well.
The president has suggested he intends to look into the origins of the investigation, alleging without specifics that some individuals associated with the probe have done “treasonous things.”
“I don’t think he’s in a position to move on yet because the Democrats want to start impeachment proceedings,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “I think in a perfect world he’d be able to move on, but I think in his own defense he’s not able to.”
The source close to the White House said if Trump is still discussing Mueller in a year it could be problematic, but expressed confidence the story will not be a central theme of the president’s 2020 platform.
Nunberg noted that polling shows most Americans do not support moving forward with impeachment and suggested that Trump’s attacks could resonate with voters who view Democratic inquiries as precursors to impeachment.
A report from the Justice Department inspector general focused on certain aspects of the Russia investigation, including whether federal law enforcement improperly surveilled a former Trump campaign aide, could add more fuel to the fire. That internal report is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
Attorney General William BarrBill BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe Jan. 6 committee chair says panel spoke to William Barr William Barr's memoir set for release in early March MORE is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, where lawmakers are expected to grill him on Mueller’s report. Some lawmakers have called for Mueller himself to testify next month.
Democrats have also subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn for testimony after he was featured prominently in some of Mueller’s descriptions of potential efforts by Trump to obstruct the investigation.
Trump has pledged to resist Democratic oversight efforts, arguing his cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation was sufficient. That strategy could portend a drawn-out legal battle.
It’s clear that Trump likes talking to his supporters about Mueller and the investigations of his presidency.
At a rally in Wisconsin on Saturday night, Trump opened with remarks about a shooting at a California synagogue and a focus on the economy following a better-than-expected first quarter. But within about 15 minutes of taking the stage, he was blasting Democrats for pursuing the “collusion delusion” and deriding Mueller’s “witch hunt.”