Trump takes post-Mueller victory lap

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE on Wednesday claimed total victory following Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE’s testimony to Congress, belittling the former special counsel’s performance and statements about the Russia investigation. 

Speaking at the White House shortly after Mueller’s nearly six-hour-long appearance on Capitol Hill, Trump declared the “phony cloud” cast by the investigation had been lifted and insisted “there was no defense to this ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt.”

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“This was a very big day for our country. This was a very big day for the Republican Party. And you could say it was a great day for me, but I don’t even like to say that. It’s great,” the president told reporters before leaving for a political fundraiser in West Virginia. 

Trump said earlier this week he would not watch the hearings, but it was clear he paid close attention to the day’s events. He tweeted or retweeted more than a dozen messages during Mueller’s testimony and afterward declared:

The president, while speaking later to reporters, said Mueller did a “horrible job,” in what he called “one of the worst performances in the history of our country.” 

He also said the result was a “disaster for the Democrats,” whom he accused of hitching their political fortunes to Mueller’s two-year investigation into Russia’s election interference in 2016 and possible obstruction by Trump. 

“They’re going to lose the 2020 election, including congressional seats, because of the path they chose,” the president predicted.

But he was nonetheless frustrated with some of Mueller’s statements during his testimony before two House panels

The former special counsel during his testimony rejected Trump’s repeated claims that the Russia probe was a “witch hunt.” Mueller also doubled-down on his assertion that his report on the investigation did not “exonerate” the president.

Trump said Mueller “totally folded because he didn’t have the right to exonerate,” even though the president said in May that the special counsel’s report was a “complete and total exoneration.”

Mueller's investigation did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, and neither implicated nor cleared Trump on the question of obstruction of justice.

The former special counsel's testimony hewed closely to his report, and he declined to answer questions beyond its scope, though he did say during his testimony that a president can be indicted once they leave office.

Trump said that was “a very dumb and a very unfair question” to ask.

“He took that totally out of play,” Trump said, citing Mueller’s backtracking on whether his decision not to charge Trump was solely based on Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. 

But that is a separate question. On the question of whether Trump could be charged after he leaves office, Mueller replied “yes.”

The president berated a reporter who asked whether he is worried about the possibility of a post-presidency indictment, calling the person “fake news.” 

When PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor asked Trump about Mueller’s statement that his written answers were “generally” untruthful, Trump wrongly accused her of not telling the truth. 

“He didn’t say that,” Trump said of Mueller. “When you ask that question, you’re untruthful.” 

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsSunday shows - Second whistleblower grabs spotlight House Democrat: Trump 'dangerously abused his oath of office' Democrats are 'giddy over' impeachment inquiry, Republican says MORE (D-Fla.) asked Mueller if it is “fair to say the president’s written answers … showed that he wasn't always being truthful,” to which the former special counsel replied, “I would say, generally.”

Republican lawmakers seized on the political leanings of some on Mueller's team and claimed the former special counsel had violated longstanding precedent by explaining his decision not to recommend charges against the president.

Trump took note of those Republicans, praising them as “incredible warriors” for his cause. 

“You watched today on television, Republicans that defended something and defended something that is very powerful, very important. Because they were really defending our country,” the president said. 

—Updated at 5:54 p.m. Brett Samuels contributed.