Trump targets Mueller report scapegoats

Source: Politico | April 19, 2019 | Nancy Cook, Andrew Restuccia and Caitlin Oprysko

A day after celebrating the Mueller report as a vindication, the president seems to be souring on its conclusions.

A day after claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report had vindicated him, President Donald Trump was in a foul mood about Mueller’s detailed findings, lashing out at the Russia investigator and fuming about aides who cooperated with him.

Close White House advisers said they expect Trump’s hottest rage in the coming days will be directed at former White House counsel Don McGahn, a source of some of the report’s most embarrassing findings about the president. Trump angrily tweeted on Thursday that the report contained “total bullshit” from people trying to make themselves look good and harm the president.

Trump’s obvious frustration was a sign that the White House’s victory lap on the Mueller report was premature. Although Trump celebrated the fact that the report did not find a conspiracy between his 2016 campaign and the Kremlin or that he obstructed justice, Trump seemed to be blaming scapegoats for the scathing media coverage that followed the report’s release — including McGahn.

The president and his former top White House lawyer had a tenuous relationship even before Mueller’s report detonated over Washington on Thursday. McGahn, who left his job in October 2018 after nearly two years, sat for roughly 30 hours of interviews with Mueller’s team and he plays a starring role in the report for his efforts to stop Trump from crossing the line into obstructing justice. One Friday morning headline capturing the capital’s post-Mueller consensus declared that McGahn had “saved Trump from himself” — a conclusion bound to irk a news-obsessed president who resents suggestions that his aides control him.

“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed,” Trump wrote in a string of tweets from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The report made clear that a handful of staffers took notes of their interactions with the president including McGahn, former staff secretary Rob Porter, former chief of staff John Kelly and former deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland.

That revelation came as a shock to some of those who spoke to the special counsel’s team, some of whom told POLITICO they did not realize their interviews would be recounted in such detail in the report for public consumption. The president’s reaction also frustrated Trump associates who privately noted that they had little choice but to comply with Mueller’s requests for information — and who they stressed that the White House gave them permission to participate.

Trump complained that he was unable to push back on the claims made by his aides in Mueller’s report because of his decision not to sit down with Mueller in person. He also suggested he was unfairly thrown under the bus by those who had spoken freely to investigators.

“Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the ‘Report’ about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),” he continued in another tweet.

Trump’s missives, sent as he kicked off Easter weekend at Mar-A-Lago, are signs that he will brood over the weekend over the report’s many damaging revelations. They also suggest that concerns among his current and former aides that the report might prompt him to seek retribution were well-founded.

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