As curtain-raisers go, Donald Trump’s morning blast turned out to be nearly comprehensive. Trump ripped special counsel Robert Mueller and deputy AG Rod Rosenstein as “totally conflicted” in a series of tweets. He also accused others of having conflicts, including a Mueller deputy whom Trump claimed worked at the Clinton Foundation at one point:
Usually, Trump tweets out his Mueller blasts in an extemporaneous fashion. These seem more precisely calibrated as a pre-buttal — and for good reason. Mueller will show more of his hand today, as Politico notes; Mueller will unveil more documents today related his moves on two former Trump associates:
President Donald Trump lashed out Friday morning against the Mueller investigation, outlining what he called “big time” conflicts of interest within the special counsel’s office and engaging in his most direct attacks on his deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, suggesting he is “totally conflicted.”
The president’s attacks, delivered in a flurry of early-morning posts to Twitter, come on what is expected to be a busy day for special counsel Robert Mueller, whose office is expected to release new filings on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and on the president’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.
Plus, don’t forget who’s coming to Capitol Hill today:
Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before members of the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors on Capitol Hill today.@mkraju has the latest: https://t.co/WWfz8VsJ7T pic.twitter.com/3izLULR7AS
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) December 7, 2018
That’s a lot of news to get out in front of. The bit about Corsi refers to Jeannie Rhee, whom Corsi says demanded “false testimony,” according to a complaint Corsi recently filed with acting AG Matt Whitaker and with the inspector general of the Department of Justice:
Corsi, an associate of Roger Stone, alleges Mueller’s team tried to pressure him to admit that he lied about his efforts to learn WikiLeaks’ plans ahead of the release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s stolen emails in October 2016.
Corsi insists he never lied. He says he forgot about the messages he sent to Stone and others seeking to find out what damaging information WikiLeaks had on the Clinton campaign — and later amended his testimony after he found them.
“The special counsel and his prosecutorial staff threatened to indict Dr. Corsi, who is now 72 years old, and effectively put him in jail for the rest of his life, unless Dr. Corsi would provide the false testimony that they demanded, even after being informed that the testimony desired would be false,” says the 78-page document. “This is criminal.”
Rhee has represented Hillary Clinton in the past, although it’s not clear that she was ever an officer in the Clinton Foundation. The Washington Times reported in July 2017 that her status as a donor to Democrats raised questions early on about Mueller’s judgment in selecting his team:
Among the donors are Jeannie Rhee, a former deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel, who donated $5,400 to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign PAC Hillary for America. She gave $4,800 to President Obama’s campaign.
While working at the WilmerHale law firm with Mr. Mueller, Ms. Rhee was on the legal team that represented the Clinton Foundation. She was also part of the team that defended Mrs. Clinton against lawsuits over her email practices as secretary of state.
So Rhee’s old news, too, and a tad exaggerated in terms of the Clinton Foundation, anyway. Trump’s tweets serve to offer a basic outline of the formal rebuttal he promised that Rudy Giuliani would deliver … whenever Mueller finishes his report to Rosenstein:
The subtext here is that there won’t be anything else coming from the White House except for the “counter report.” Trump went after Rosenstein again this morning in a way that suggests he thinks there will be some damage that comes from it — and that Rosenstein will act on the report by giving it to Congress. (That’s almost a slam-dunk prediction anyway.) By attacking Rosenstein’s credibility, he might be laying the groundwork for a termination, but Trump had plenty of grounds for that two months ago and passed on the opportunity. This seems much more intended to paint Rosenstein as a political player with “conflicts” as a means of undermining his credibility when and not if he’s in place to act on the report. Besides, there wouldn’t be a need for a “counter report” if Trump was going to block the Mueller report in some fashion.
The same applies even more to Mueller’s status. Trump explicitly states that he’s going to wait for Mueller to finish his report, a very strong signal that — despite some handwringing in the Senate — Trump has no plans to fire the special counsel. It wouldn’t do any good anyway, as Mueller would simply go to the House Democrats to testify to his findings at this late stage. Better to keep Mueller and his grand jury under the authority of the DoJ and answerable to its directives about, ahem, indicting a sitting president.
Of course, none of this might be ready to transpire before William Barr takes over as AG. At that point, Mueller would have to answer to Barr, not Rosenstein, as the superior officer at the DoJ. Mueller still has a few weeks to go before the Senate can act on Barr’s nomination, but the clock is now ticking loudly on Rosenstein’s tenure as the supervisor of the special counsel probe. Mueller has to know that, too.