He was the head — and most prominent face — of his Trump business empire. He was the head — and most prominent face — of his hit reality TV shows: “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice.” In both of those roles, what he said went — without debate.
The whole aura of Trump is based on the idea that he does what he wants, when he wants. If he wants you fired, you get fired.
All of which brings me to the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and the possibility of collusion between the Russians and members of the Trump campaign. And Trump’s clear frustration — and nervousness(?) — about it.
Asked about the investigation on Friday, Trump said from the Oval Office: “I’m not agitated. It’s a hoax. The whole thing is a hoax. There was no collusion.”
But here’s what Trump tweeted on Thursday:
“The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t care how many lives the ruin. These are Angry People, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for 8 years. They won’t even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side. A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!”
It’s not clear how Trump obtained information about the “inner workings” of the Mueller investigation given that special counsel’s office has been tight-lipped about its approach — only occasionally revealing something when a plea agreement is reached or when someone like Paul Manafort faces trial based on what Mueller’s team uncovered. Given Trump’s track record with the truth — and his fixation on the idea that Mueller is conducting a witch hunt (even though he’s not) — the possibility certainly exists that Trump made up his alleged insider information about the Mueller probe.
The broader context here speaks to Trump’s ever-mounting frustration with his inability to control the Mueller probe. We know — thanks to CNN reporting — that Trump spent several hours this week huddled with his attorneys going over written answers to questions that the Mueller team had submitted to the White House regarding the 2016 campaign.
That Trump’s tweet on Mueller came after that intense period of question-answering provides our clearest evidence yet that Trump’s anger and impatience is bubbling over. But it’s far from the only sign.
The biggest indicator of Trump desperately trying to seize control of the uncontrollable came last Wednesday when Trump finally fired his long-maligned Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump had never forgiven Sessions for recusing himself from the FBI investigation into Russian interference; in Trump’s mind, that decision by Sessions led to the formation of the special counsel and all of the problems Mueller’s investigation has caused within Trump’s administration. The firing of Sessions, however, was not the big news — that was Trump’s decision to bypass Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing the Mueller investigation, and instead name Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.
Suddenly, a public critic of the Mueller probe almost since its inception was in charge of its operations. (That Whitaker, who has not been confirmed by the Senate, is now in charge of people like Rosenstein, who does have Senate confirmation, is a also a potential legal hurdle.) And not only that, but Whitaker was selected over Rosenstein, who had been publicly supportive of Mueller and the probe generally.
Trump himself has also grown more and more boastful about what he could do to Mueller and the probe — if he so chose. “I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it,” Trump said last week in the wake of the 2018 midterm elections (more on that in a minute). “It’s a disgrace. It should never have been started, because there is no crime.”READ MORE
Spanberger, who won an upset House race unseating incumbent conservative Rep. Dave Brat, was among a half dozen Democratic lawmakers who met with Pelosi on Friday and who have either criticized her or called for new leadership as the party retakes the majority in the US House of Representatives.
Democrats will meet the week after Thanksgiving to pick their next leaders, but there will still need to be floor vote once the new Congress is sworn in in January. How many members choose to vote “present” as opposed to for a specific candidate could impact the majority threshold and Pelosi could win with fewer than 218 votes on the floor.
Spanberger, who consistently distanced herself from Pelosi on the campaign trail, told reporters that, despite her opposition, she would not sign an anti-Pelosi letter signed by 17 Democrats who have vowed to vote against her. She said she’s not signing onto to “any letter.”
“I’ve been very clear about my position and that remains the same,” she said. “I will be voting but I will not be voting for her.”
She did say she had a “wonderful” discussion with Pelosi about the needs of her district.
In an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Spanberger said later Friday she had “tremendous respect” for Pelosi and said her opposition is about a need for “new voices in Congress.”
“Nothing is wrong with Nancy Pelosi,” Spanberger told Tapper. “Nancy Pelosi’s done tremendous things for this country as speaker, as minority leader, and I have tremendous respect for her. Among the reasons that there are so many women entering Congress now is because she’s paved the way for us. But one of the things that I talked about frequently on the campaign trail was the need to have new voices in Congress, the need to turn a new page in the way we engage across the aisle, and really to be able to work on the priorities that were most important to the people in my district.”
Separately, a “Dear Colleague” letter passed around by members of the House Democratic caucus dissatisfied with Pelosi says “we believe more strongly than ever that the time has come for new leadership in our Caucus,” according to a copy obtained by CNN.
Pelosi has enjoyed support from many members of her caucus and prominent Democrats throughout the week have urged the party’s House members to back her. Another letter that’s being circulated on Capitol Hill on Friday revealed multiple incoming freshmen — who were largely noncommittal on the House speaker race during their campaigns — will in fact support Pelosi. The letter, obtained by CNN, is still being circulated and so far includes 61 signatures from women incumbents and members-elect.READ MORE