So much for the Friday Showdown at the Special Counsel Corral. On his return from Camp David, Donald Trump told reporters last night that firing Robert Mueller was not even under consideration, let alone having the ax ready to fall. Trump seemed to enjoy delivering the message too, adding “What — are you surprised?”
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 17, 2017
Some seemed to be, yes:
President Trump says he will not fire special counsel Robert Mueller. The president spoke out Sunday after his attorney accused Mueller of improperly obtaining tens of thousands of emails, covering the time before Mr. Trump took office https://t.co/dlBsjUkuLl pic.twitter.com/VuVtLRd8sO
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 18, 2017
President Trump said Sunday he is not considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the wake of calls from some Republican allies to shut down the Mueller probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 over allegations of bias by FBI officials.
“No, I’m not,” Mr. Trump told reporters upon his arrival back at the White House. Mr. Trump spent Saturday night at Camp David.
The latest Trump’s-firing-Mueller rumors didn’t make much sense from the beginning. While it’s tough to predict anything about Trump and his mercurial temperament, the rational time to fire Mueller would have been in the first couple of months of the probe, or when he indicted Paul Manafort on a raft of charges that had nothing to do with the mandate for the investigation. Mueller has finished interviewing White House personnel (for now, anyway) and presumably is now reviewing the e-mail records from the transition team to find any major contradictions.
Trump seems sanguine about that as well:
Trump’s allies complained this weekend about the way Mueller’s team went about obtaining emails from the presidential transition. A lawyer for the transition team said the special counsel improperly obtained the records directly from the General Services Administration, though other legal experts have since said Mueller’s actions were appropriate.
The president said the reports are “not looking good” and that “a lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad.” He also said he didn’t think Mueller would find anything useful in the emails.
“It’s quite sad to see that,” he said. “My people are very upset about it. I can’t imagine there’s anything on ‘em, frankly, because as we said, there’s no collusion.”
CNN now reports this morning that, despite all of the hysterical rumors floated last week by House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff, Trump’s actually been remarkably sanguine about Mueller all along. He’s been so calm that some of his aides are worried he’s not taking it seriously enough:
There’s no indication from special counsel Robert Mueller or his team that the probe is in its final stages. A tipping point in the showdown could come as soon as this week when Trump’s private lawyers and Mueller meet, sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Trump’s team is hoping to get a clearer sense of Mueller’s next steps in the investigation, an assessment that could either pacify Trump or inflame him.
Until those next signs emerge, Trump is boasting to friends and advisers that he expects Mueller to clear him of wrongdoing in the coming weeks, according to sources familiar with the conversations. The President seems so convinced of his impending exoneration that he is telling associates Mueller will soon write a letter clearing him that Trump can brandish to Washington and the world in a bid to finally emerge from the cloud of suspicion that has loomed over the first chapter of his presidency, the sources said. …
In private conversations, Trump still speaks dismissively of the Russia investigation, referring to it as “bulls—” and proclaiming “I don’t know any Russians!” multiple sources told CNN.
But those outbursts are measured against Trump’s belief that the investigation will soon wrap up favorably. That rosy picture has buoyed Trump’s spirits in recent weeks, leaving him seemingly less frustrated and more even-keeled about the investigation even as Mueller’s team landed a guilty plea and the cooperation of one of the President’s former top advisers, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Contrast this from last week’s stories based on rumors that Trump’s hair was practically on fire and the same aides were holding him back from firing Mueller. This CNN report is a 180-degree flip of this story. Which one’s true? I suspect that this report is closer to the truth, especially because there’s no upside to firing Mueller at this point. All the political damage has already been done, and if Trump believes that the probe will eventually clear him on the charge of collusion, then firing him would mean paying that political price twice with no payoff. And a former casino mogul would know better than that.