As two indictments and a guilty plea were unsealed Monday morning stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Donald Trump watched the coverage on television in the White House, growing increasingly frustrated as journalists and pundits dissected the court documents, according to reports from the Washington Post and CNN.
Trump stayed in the White House residence with just a few aides, rather than heading to the Oval Office, per CNN. Several people close to Trump told the Washington Post that the President reacted with “with exasperation and disgust” to the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, former aides to the Trump campaign. A Republican close to the White House told CNN that Trump was “seething.”
Though Trump complained that the media inflated Manafort’s importance on his campaign, as CNN reported, he was was confident that the indictments had nothing to do with the campaign itself, per the Post.
However, the revelation that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, including a Russia-linked professor that discussed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, caught Trump and his aides off guard.
“The President is going, ‘Really, this is the guy?'” a senior White House official told CNN, describing Trump’s reaction to Papadopolous’ guilty plea.
As Trump fumed, his closest advisers and members of his legal team rushed to consult the President on his reaction, the Washington Post and CNN both reported. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and several members of Trump’s legal team told the President to be cautious when publicly reacting to the charges.
Former White House adviser Steve Bannon, however, has apparently taken the opposite tack, reportedly advising Trump to defund the Mueller probe.