After Trump’s Anti-DOJ Rage-a-Thon, His Lawyer Swears He’s Not About To Ax Mueller

on March 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 13: U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions from the media after his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before departing from the White House on March 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 13: U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions from the media after his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before departing from the White House on March 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to California to view prototypes of a controversial border wall. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The attorney leading the White House’s response to the Russia investigation said on Sunday something that he’s told reporters numerous times before: that President Trump was not about to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

But White House attorney Ty Cobb’s assurances seem more divorced from his client’s public posture than ever.

Over the weekend Trump escalated his war with Mueller and the Justice Department at large. He raged at Mueller over Twitter — calling him out by name on Twitter for the first time. Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, for the first time called for Mueller’s firing — a comment he initially said was being made on behalf of the president, before walking it back by calling it a personal statement of his own.

Their tirades came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the former No. 2 official at the FBI who has alleged that his termination was “part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation.”

Yet on Sunday evening, after all the raging, Cobb projected his typical aura of cool, in a statement that went out to the White House press pool responding to “media speculation and related questions posed to the Administration.”

“[T]he White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.

Cobb has been a voice of calm on Trump’s legal team, stressing his belief that cooperating with Mueller will let the probe wrap up quickly. Trump’s recent rage suggests he doesn’t exactly feel the same way.

Trump’s fuming was kicked off by Sessions’ decision late Friday evening to fire McCabe mere hours before McCabe was to become eligible for his retirement benefits.

McCabe’s firing is related to the Justice Department inspector general’s inquiry into the department’s handling of 2016-related investigations; McCabe reportedly was scrutinized for his lack of candor during the IG’s probe about a Wall Street story he helped facilitate about the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation.

But Trump, in responding to the news, instead took a swipe at former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired leading to the appointment of Mueller.

Trump has repeatedly also slammed McCabe for contributions his wife received, during a failed 2015 state Senate run, from a group aligned with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). The continued public pressure from Trump has raised questions about McCabe’s firing, which McCabe himself has declared is intended to discredit him as a key Mueller witness, particularly on the Comey firing.

By Saturday morning, Dowd took the lashing-out to the next level. Claiming that he was speaking for the President, he told the Daily Beast — in a statement referencing Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — that Mueller’s probe needed to be shut down by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing it in light of Sessions’ recusal.

Dowd quickly went into walk back mode in statements to TPM and other outlets clarifying that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the President.

Nonetheless, Trump’s own sentiments did not sound too far off from Dowd’s. In a series of a half-dozen tweets over the weekend, Trump claimed Mueller’s probe “should never have been started” and that it was being led by “hardened Democrats.”

It appeared Trump was watching the fallout from the McCabe termination closely— responding to the news that McCabe had turned over memos about Trump-related conversations to Mueller and pushing back at Comey, who had warned Trump in a  tweet that the “American people will hear my story very soon.”

With his most recent Tweet, Trump appeared to be reverting to an argument that was being privately floated to fire Mueller last summer, when Trump’s legal defense was being led his longtime personal lawyer, the brash Marc E. Kasowitz. The New York Times reported that the alleged conflicts Trump’s team was considering as justifications to ax Mueller were Democratic donations members of his team had given; Mueller’s previous position at a law firm representing Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner; and a 2011 dispute over fees that led Mueller to resign his membership at a Trump golf course.

Trump, the New York Times reported Sunday evening, is feeling unchained in recent days. He has been embolden to ignore the counsel of advisers, according to the Times, in a pattern that has also included his push for tariffs, his plans to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and the reshuffling of his Cabinet.

The Daily Beast meanwhile reported that his allies believed that this was only the start in Trump’s new push to confront Mueller more directly.

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