Trump is “less agitated” about the Russia investigation, CNN sources say, insisting that he’ll soon be cleared –IN WRITING. But some Trump allies are now worried he’s not taking the the probe seriously enough.
This information of how Trump and his senior staffers are privately dealing with the Russia investigation is based on interviews that CNN did over the past week with nearly three dozen White House officials, lawmakers, outside advisers, friends of the President and sources familiar with the Robert Mueller probe.
Trump has spent much of his first year in office so enraged by the federal investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election but now there’s no indication from special counsel Mueller or his team that the probe is in its final stages. A tipping point could come 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, which could either sooth or inflame him.
Trump is telling friends and advisers that he expects Mueller to clear him of wrongdoing in the coming weeks, according to sources familiar with the conversations. He seems so convinced of this that he says Mueller will soon write a letter clearing him that he can wave around Washington and the world to from under this dark cloud of suspicion (guilt!) that continues to loom over the his presidency.
Multiple sources told CNN, in private conversations, Trump still says the investigation is “bullshit” and,
“I don’t know any Russians!”
Said one source who speaks to Trump.
“The President’s mantra is ‘All this Russia stuff, it’s all going to wrap up soon.’ He repeats it as fact. Part of me is like –’Are you serious? You believe this?'”
Trump told reporters at the White House yesterday evening that he was not considering firing Mueller. Lawyers representing the Trump transition wrote to members of Congress accusing Mueller of obtaining unauthorized access to tens of thousands of transition emails, including what they claim to be documents protected by attorney-client privilege. Mueller’s spokesman responded that,
“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”
(The Palmer Report had an explanation for Trump’s announcement, and the lawyer freak–out, which you can read here.)
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on “State of the Union” that
“we’ve got to get past this investigation.”
CNN’s sources familiar with the President’s recent conversations about the investigation said Trump has become convinced that he will receive a letter of exoneration, which would be unusual. One source worried Trump would have a “meltdown” if that doesn’t happen.
“He’ll try and fire Mueller and then be impeached.”
A source who speaks with the President.
“What they are trying to do is manage Trump. That’s what everyone tries to do.”
(Good luck with THAT.)
Sources say the investigation –and wall-to-wall media coverage– has affected the mood in the West Wing of the White House. One source familiar with the situation said,
“The commotion around the investigation is morale-crushing to everybody.”
Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and Trump’s closest aide, missed days of work to meet with her lawyer to get ready for her interview, two sources told CNN.
Trump supporter and CNN commentator, Scott Jennings, who found himself investigated by a special counsel as deputy director of political affairs under President George W. Bush said,
“I feel for these White House staffers that are caught up in these interviews because it’s nerve-wracking. The thing that nobody really knows, having really lived through one of these, is just how much of a toll this can take on staff in terms of stress, anxiety, personal legal bills.”
Tim Naftali, a CNN presidential historian and the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum said of the Watergate comparison,
“The most important difference at this point in the story between the Watergate scandal and ‘Hackergate’ or ‘Russiagate’ is that Congress is not holding public hearings. It was every day, it was public and people watched it. It was like a soap opera.”
Yeah, well, that was the 70s, soap operas were big. In 2017, we get a bad reality TV show starring a former reality TV star playing POTUS –badly. Let’s hope that show gets cancelled next year. (Photo, CNN; via CNN)