One of the many satisfying aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s juggernaut-like investigation is knowing that Donald Trump is mostly powerless to thwart it, while also knowing that it’s eating him alive being the ultimate target of the counsel’s historic efforts.
It’s heart-warming that an unapologetic bully and professional dick like Trump is being scrutinized for criminal activity of this severity: alleged treason, money laundering, obstruction of justice and other charges potentially ending his reign and possibly landing him in federal prison. Given the rogues gallery of political villains in the world, I’m not going out on a limb to observe that Trump is near the top of the list of leaders who thoroughly deserve to be punished for the horrible things they’ve unleashed into the world.
Short of that, I’m enjoying the accounts of Trump and his West Wing staff completely losing their shpadoinkle as the Mueller indictment-gasm ramps up. Suffice to say, I’d hate to be the bathroom maintenance guy at the White House. Two articles in particular are loaded with schadenfreude as the Trump administration unspools before our eyes.
We’ll start with news from The Washington Post, specifically a piece co-authored by the great Robert “Mugsy” Costa, along with Philip Rucker and Ashley Carter. For the record, Mugsy & Company’s report is based on not one, not two, but 20 sources inside the administration.
1. Trump’s pissy behavior while watching the indictment news on TV.
The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.
2. Presidential “grousing.”
Trump’s anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown. As the president groused upstairs, many staffers — some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller’s investigation — privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.
3. Everyone is freaking out.
“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”
4. Trump is worried about Mueller looking at “financial issues.”
Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller’s probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family.
Trump and his aides were frustrated that, yet again, Russia steamrolled the start of a carefully planned week of policy news.
Here’s me laughing my ass off.
5. White House staffers worried that indicted suspects might rat them out.
Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller’s team damaging information about other colleagues. They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort…
See previous bathroom remark. Making matters more harrowing for Trumpland, there could be countless other suspects who are “proactively cooperating” with the investigation beyond Papadopoulos. Rumor has it that Sam Clovis, former campaign policy adviser and Trump’s nominee to head the Agriculture Department’s science lab, is cooperating and has been doing so for a while now. What are they telling Mueller? How deep does this go? I’m sure we’ll find out.
Now, moving on to a fantastic piece by Vanity Fair‘s Gabe Sherman, who picks up where Mugsy left off.
1. Trump is “fucked.”
“Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.”
For what it’s worth, a cursory glance at Nunberg’s Twitter feed indicates he’s definitely not an anti-Trump Republican.
2. West wing advisers are “on edge” and running away from any mentions of Russia.
According to a source, advisers in the West Wing are on edge and doing whatever they can not to be ensnared. One person close to Dina Powell and Gary Cohn said they’re making sure to leave rooms if the subject of Russia comes up.
3. There’s no path of early escape for Trump.
The consensus among the advisers I spoke to is that Trump faces few good options to thwart Mueller. For one, firing Mueller would cross a red line, analogous to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during Watergate, pushing establishment Republicans to entertain the possibility of impeachment. “His options are limited, and his instinct is to come out swinging, which won’t help things,” said a prominent Republican close to the White House.
4. Trump wants to freak out publicly, but he can’t.
“Trump wants to be critical of Mueller,” one person who’s been briefed on Trump’s thinking says. “He thinks it’s unfair criticism. Clinton hasn’t gotten anything like this. And what about Tony Podesta? Trump is like, When is that going to end?”
5. Trump is pissed at his legal team.
According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far.
7. Trump is pissed at Jared Kushner and everyone thinks Jared sucks.
Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call.
When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”
8. Trump is getting advice from aides about how to proceed.
As Mueller moves to interview West Wing aides in the coming days, advisers are lobbying for Trump to consider a range of stratagems to neutralize Mueller, from conciliation to a declaration of all-out war.
9. Bannon and Stone think the GOP establishment wants to impeach Trump.
Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, who both believe establishment Republicans are waiting for a chance to impeach Trump. “The establishment has proven time and time again they will fuck Trump over,” a Bannon ally told me.
10. Bannon is enabling Trump’s worst instincts — specifically to ignore lawyer Ty Cobb’s recommendation to be cooperative with Mueller. Instead, Bannon wants Congress to defund the Special Counsel’s Office.
Bannon told the president to shake up the legal team by installing an aggressive lawyer above Cobb, according to two sources briefed on the call. Bannon has also discussed ways to pressure Congress to defund Mueller’s investigation or limit its scope. “Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told me. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”
11. Roger Stone wants to make Mueller a criminal target in an investigation into the Uranium One deal.
Stone wants Trump to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in approving the controversial Uranium One deal that’s been a locus of rightwing hysteria (the transaction involved a Russian state-owned energy firm acquiring a Canadian mining company that controlled 20 percent of the uranium in the United States). It’s a bit of a bank shot, but as Stone described it, a special prosecutor looking into Uranium One would also have to investigate the F.B.I.’s role in approving the deal, thereby making Mueller—who was in charge of the bureau at the time—a target.
Trump should stop taking calls from Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, or any of their surrogates. But he won’t, and they’ll help him destroy himself. So, fine. Likewise, Trump should pay more attention to Ty Cobb, who wants to take a smarter approach to Mueller’s efforts. But, again, Trump won’t do that because it’s not in Trump’s nature to cooperate with anyone he sees as a threat. Trump’s style of doing business may have elevated him to this station, but entering politics this late in life has left Trump vulnerable to exposing all the crimes he committed before he knew better. Indeed, he still might not know better, which, naturally, is great because it makes things easier for Mueller’s team of Untouchables.
Nevertheless, as we await more unsealed indictments, now is the first period of time since Election Day 2016 in which we can actually sit back and watch Trump get pelted by reality rather than the other way around. Please clap.
UPDATE: Looks like Trump is trying to spin these articles, saying he’s neither under investigation nor angry at anyone. Not for nothing but Trump is definitely being investigated for obstruction of justice, and perhaps other charges we’re not yet privy to.