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Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 6:49 PM
As President Donald Trump this weekend repeated some of his complaints about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether it involved anyone on his campaign, Mr. Trump did something unusual - sending out a pair of his tweets which included the name of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading that investigation.
It was the first time on Twitter that the President had more directly taken aim at Mueller, a former FBI Director who was named by the Trump Justice Department in 2017 to investigate the charge of Russian meddling in last year's elections.
Were the weekend mentions of Mueller a new game plan from the President? Or just more of him venting frustration about the Russia investigation?
1. Is Trump now going to more publicly confront Mueller? Before this weekend, President Trump had mentioned the Special Counsel's name in a tweet just one time, back in December. But this weekend, the President did it twice. "The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime," Mr. Trump said in a familiar refrain about the investigation. But his next tweet went further, directly accusing Mueller of putting together a biased investigation. In the process, the New York Times reported that the President shrugged off the advice of his legal team to not even mention Mueller's name. Democrats in Congress said the Twitter volleys showed one thing - that the President is feeling pressure from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
2. Trump lawyer calls for end to Mueller probe. While the President condemned the Russia investigation, one of his lawyers, John Dowd, went a step further, saying it was time for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to bring the Mueller probe to a close. Asked about that on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) basically told lawyer John Dowd to shut up, saying no matter what you think of the issue of collusion, Mueller's task is to find out how Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. "To suggest that Mueller should shut down, and all he is looking at is collusion - if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it," Gowdy said bluntly. Gowdy was one of the few Republicans to address the issue on Sunday.
3. Most Republicans say little about Trump-Mueller. About 12 hours after the President's Sunday morning tweets, one of his White House lawyers sent word that the President was not "considering or discussing the firing of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller." But Democrats said that's the way it looked to them, and a handful of Republicans joined in airing similar concerns. "It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in a statement. "Members of Congress need to be vocal in support of Special Counsel Mueller finishing his investigation," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). But there were few other Republicans making such statements.
4. Mueller remains silent on Russia investigation. While the President has expended a lot of energy in recent months raising questions about the Russia probe, Special Counsel Mueller has said nothing. He has not appeared in public to discuss the investigation. He has not released any statements on all the furor surrounding the investigation. He has not taken issue with any comments by the President. Instead, Mueller has let the guilty pleas and indictments do the talking for him, as several people who worked for the Trump Campaign have already plead guilty to lying to the FBI about their conversations related to Russia. For some Republicans, Mueller's work has already gone on too long.
5. Few details on the firing of ex-FBI official Andrew McCabe. The weekend got off to a fast start at 10 pm on Friday night, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. No paperwork was released, so despite a lot of press reports on what exactly happened, we haven't seen any part of an internal investigation that's being done on the way top FBI brass handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and the Trump-Russia probe. While the President celebrated the firing of McCabe - "a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI" - most GOP lawmakers stayed quiet. On Sunday, Trump accused both McCabe, and former FBI Director James Comey of fabricating evidence against him. "Fake memos," he wrote. One Republican who raised a red flag about the firing of McCabe was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who expressed concern about a bureaucratic process involving federal workers that usually takes much longer to complete. Democrats said it was nothing but an effort to undermine McCabe as a possible witness in the Mueller probe, dealing with possible obstruction of justice by the President.