A battle for public opinion: Trump goes to war over Mueller and Russia

In recent periods, the rightwing media and Trump loyalists ought to have clambering to discredit the special attorney and smear his Russia inquiry as a liberal plot

Illegitimate and corrupt. Applying the FBI as a political weapon and America’s secret police.” Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night, banging through your entrance .”

This is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 general elections, as visualized through the eyes of news anchor and analyst Gregg Jarrett this week .~ ATAGEND Anyone expecting him to be challenged live their lives air was destined for disappointment.

Fox News host Sean Hannity replied:” This is not hyperbole you are using here .”

It was one telling glimpse of the parallel world that Donald Trump hopes will save him from Mueller’s sprawling investigation and potential impeachment. Far from an outlier, it was typical of how in recent days rightwing media, congressional Republican and Trump’s base have gone to war, was striving to discredit and delegitimise the special counsel.


Who is Robert Mueller?


Robert S Mueller III, 73, is a former FBI director who was appointed by George W Bush and comprised over by Barack Obama beyond his 10 -year word. The word expansion required special congressional action which the Senate approved 100 -0. Previously, Mueller comprised two different US attorney posts and was an helper us attorney general in the George HW Bush administration.

Special lawyer

Mueller was appointed special lawyer in May 2017, eight periods after Trump fired FBI director James Comey. A special counsel is a prosecutor had been established in extraordinary circumstances or in cases of conflicts of interest within the justice department. In this case, there was a need for someone to investigate the Russian affair who was not appointed by or beholden to Trump.

Mueller’s team of 17 lawyers operates independently of, but( ideally) in cooperation with, Congress, which has three committees conducting investigations in parallel to Mueller. Mueller is expected to submit a report to Congress and may bring criminal charges separately.

Mueller has a sizeable budget and an open-ended term. He is specifically authorized to investigate” any associates and/ or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” plus any matters that” may arise immediately from the investigation “. He has the power to prosecute federal crimes.

Can he be replaced ?

Mueller was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, with attorney general Jeff Sessions having earlier recused himself from the Russia investigation. In hypothesi, simply Rosenstein may remove Mueller, although if Trump wanted to fire Mueller, and Rosenstein were unwilling, Trump could replace Rosenstein.

Trump’s view

Trump has said Mueller” is very, very good friends with[ James] Comey, which is very bothersome” but just said ” Robert Mueller is an honorable man .”

Photograph: Saul Loeb/ AFP

Even if they do not win in the court of public opinion, they hope to sow enough doubt that should Mueller produce damning evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the reaction will be as divided as everything else in split-screen America, offering the president an flee route.

” It’s the only lane he’s going to get out of this: by trying to construct police investigations seem partisan ,” said Max Bergmann , a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress( CAP) Action Fund in Washington.” It’s the only strategy now: make sure his base is with him and Republicans in Congress won’t comprise him accountable .”

Only 56% of Americans are’ very or somewhat confident’ that Mueller will conduct his investigation reasonably, according to a survey of 1,503 by the Pew Research Center. More than two in three Democrat( 68%) say they are at least’ somewhat confident’ that Mueller’s investigation will be conducted moderately. Less than one in two Republican( 44%) envision the same way.

There was little doubting the feeling among Trump’s core support at a rally in Pensacola, Florida on Friday night. Mike Newell, garmented in gear has declared that he was a marines veteran, dismissed police investigations as” a big joke”, adding that it was ” all politically motivated and … a shame we’re wasting that kind of taxpayer money on something that’s so ridiculous “.

Newell said he followed the narrative” all over the national media, the fake media mostly” and that the most reliable source was Fox News, which Trump consumes voraciously.” They are accurate on “what theyre saying” ,” he said.

La-Vonne Haven of Pensacola, who was wearing a” Construct American Great Again” coat hat to keep warm on an unseasonably cold day on the Gulf coast, said:” We watch Fox when we want to get the truth. I’ll go to Fox because there’s just too much political untruths out there .”

Trump advocates at the rally in Pensacola. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/ AFP/ Getty Images

She agreed with Newell that the Mueller investigation should be wound up.” It’s time we threw it to rest because there’s nothing against our president .” She conceded that there may be a instance against others in the campaign but was confident that Trump was not involved.

Some believe they discerned a political plot to undermine the White House. Kelly Moffitt, of Cottonwood, Arizona, said of Mueller’s researchers it” seems they have already strayed and his team is more than just partisan- the government had some kind of axe to grind “.

‘They can’t beat us at the voting booths’

Mueller was appointed special attorney in May, following Trump’s dismissal of FBI director James Comey. On the working day it emerged Mueller had convened a grand jury, Trump laid out a blueprint for delegitimising the entire exercise, portraying it as a Democratic plot against his supporters.

” They can’t beat us at the voting kiosks so they’re trying to cheater you out of the future and the future that wishes to ,” he told a rallying in Huntington, West Virginia in August .” They’re trying to defraud you out of the leadership that you want with a fake tale that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution .”

Since October, Mueller has charged four people from Trump’s inner circle, most recently his former national security consultant Michael Flynn . Although the president has avoided attacking Mueller directly, likely on legal advice, he did tweet last week that the FBI’s reputation was in ” tatters” while his allies have launched a massive counter-offensive on multiple fronts.


The key events in the Trump-Russia investigation

GCHQ cautions US intelligence

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ becomes aware of suspicious “interactions” between people with Trump ties and Russian intelligence spies. In late 2015, GCHQ advises US intelligence.

Hacking and ‘influence campaign’

The first phishing emails begin to reached Democratic men( the Democratic National Committee having been hacked months earlier ). Hundreds or thousands of impostor reports appear on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Trump foreign policy meeting

Trump is told about the Russian contacts of at least one aide, and Jeff Sessions kill down a possible Trump-Putin meeting, according to multiple people present. Later Trump and Sessions repeatedly deny there had ever been such contacts by anyone in the campaign with Russian operatives.

Trump tower fulfill

Top Trump campaign consultants including Donald Trump Jr meet at Trump Tower with Russian operatives, having been promised “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” A Russian present says sanctions were discussed.

Republican national convention

The convention convenes in Cleveland, Ohio. Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak attends. Top Trump campaign aides vociferously deny the relations with Russian spies. WikiLeaks liberates 44,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Publication of emails

Across the Fall, outlets including WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks publish dozens of thousands of emails stolen from Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Facebook campaign

As Russian impostor reports spread divisive propaganda throughout social media over the Fall, the Trump campaign experimentations aggressively with micro-targeting on Facebook, constructing on an “average day” 50,000 -6 0,000 ads, according to former digital administrator Brad Parscale

Contact and refusals

Top Trump campaign aides Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and others have dozens of contacts with Russian operatives that are repeatedly denied in public in all the regions of the Fall. “It never happened, ” a campaign spokeswoman said two days after the election.” There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

Trump elected

Donald Trump is elected president of the United States.

Presidential transition

Trump aides keep up contacts with Russian operatives on matters of policy and appear to hide those conversations from the US government and public. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about the conversations, then later admitted that Jared Kushner had aimed him to seek certain policy commitments from the Russian ambassador.

James Comey burnt

Trump fires the FBI director.” When I decided to simply do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story’, ” Trump tells an interviewer two days later.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Congressman Matt Gaetz said Republicans intend to investigate the” unprecedented bias against President Trump that exists when we allow people who dislike the president to participate in the investigations against him “.

He added:” A witch hunt continues against the president with tremendous bias , no the objectives and no end in sight .”

A day subsequently Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chair of the House judiciary committee, assailed the FBI over how it managed an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she used secretary of state and whether it devoted her preferential treatment over Trump.

Republicans also questioned whether Mueller’s team has political bias after media reports said an FBI agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from the Russia investigation because he had traded text messages that denigrated Trump and praised Clinton. The conservative group Judicial Watch is suing to procure the messages sent by Strzok, who was also involved in the Clinton email investigation.

Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, wrote to the justice department:” Strzok’s behavior and involvement in these two politically sensitive suits elevates new fears of inappropriate political affect in the work of the FBI .”

Such attempts are ably supported by a rightwing media operating overtime to chip away at Mueller’s reputation, even at health risks of damaging once sacred organizations. Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent of CNN, wrote the coming week :~ ATAGEND” The overarching message from Fox& Friends and Hannity is unmistakable: Mr President, you’re the victim of a’ deep country’ plot to take you down. Don’t let it happen .”

He added:” It’s an alternate universe. It’s as simple as that. All the hours dedicated to attacking Mueller mean Fox viewers aren’t hearing about the newest developments in the Russia interference investigations .”

Among the examples cited by Stelter were White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ father, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who told Monday’s Fox& Pals:” There needs to be an investigation of police investigations .” Another was Lou Dobbs on Fox Business, who said Mueller, Strzok and Comey” should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported him “.

Hannity, who is close to Trump and whose reveal enjoys the most important one ratings, said in a polemical monologue :~ ATAGEND” Let’s start off with the head of the snake. Mueller’s credibility is in the gutter tonight with these new discoveries, his conflicts of interests, his clear bias, the corruption are on full showing. Mueller is frankly a dishonor to the American judicial systems and has put the country now on the brink of becoming a banana republic .”

Michael Flynn arrives at federal court to plead guilty to lying to the FBI. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

Stelter also noted the dramatic u-turn by Newt Gingrich, a Trump cheerleader and former House speaker who once described Mueller as a” superb option to be special counselor” and said ” his reputation is impeccable for honesty and unity “. On Wednesday, Gingrich opined:” Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt .”

Other media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Breitbart News, have joined in the Mueller-bashing. Joel Pollak , senior editor-at-large of Breitbart, contends police investigations is an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of last year’s presidential election.

” There are some conflicts of interest that are very unusual ,” he said in an interview.” The deputy us attorney general Rod Rosenstein, for example, is both a witness in police investigations and is overseeing the investigation .”

Mueller has far outperformed his mandate by delving into Trump’s financial records and details about who drafted particular media statements, Pollak believes.

” There is a lot of frustration that much of what police investigations is doing has nothing to do with Russia. At the moment it looks like a political witch hunt, in accordance with the rules President Trump has framed it. Certainly the Democrats are attaining no secret of using it for moving towards impeachment. They’ve been trying to do that for a long time .”

But there is nothing that warrants impeachment, according to Pollak.” If Mueller merely says there was an attempt to collude, I don’t think the president’s advocates would abandon him. They would defend him. If Mueller says we think there was actual collusion, it depends what that collusion was. There’s no statutory felony of collusion and I imagine Trump supporters would defend him. I would.

” If they can find an actual misdemeanour, I reckon people will say it’s time to reckon with this. If it’s something minor, like a mistake on a tax return in 2006 or something, that is not grounds for impeachment. Even if Trump did something illegal during the campaign, I think you’d find his supporters- including me- would say that is not grounds for impeachment because it was the campaign , not when he is president .”

‘The distraction machine’

Bergmann of the CAP Action Fund is confident Mueller will create evidence of vast collusion and recommends Democrat to press the issue with voters in 2018.

” There’s no doubt there’s a concerted Republican strategy to try to discredit the Mueller investigation, fling sand in the eyes of the public and the press and bring up all sorts of ancillary issues ,” he said.” When the heat gets turned up, the distraction machine kicks into gear on the Republican side .”

This has ranged from a hunt for leakers, to a row over “unmasking”, to claims that Comey was politically biased, to a faux scandal over a uranium deal involving Clinton and Russia” trying to provide a Russia whataboutism ,” Bergmann said.

” Now we’re watching an effort to say:’ Oh my God, there was a Democrat in the FBI ‘, to try to say it’s all biased when Robert Mueller himself is a registered Republican, appointed by George W Bush, who served in Vietnam .”

All of it could save Trump’s skin, Bergmann said.

Quick guide

What are the allegations in the Trump-Russia investigation?

What are the most serious allegations ?

The investigation into Trump and his squad appears to encompass allegations of collusion, obstruction of justice, abuse of power and charges specific to Trump aides and former aides.

Any case along these lines against the president “wouldve been” historic. Both of the presidents to face impeachment proceedings in the past century, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, faced blockage of justice and abuse of power charges.

Is there anything we don’t know ?

It’s important to note that the work of the special counselor is secret, and the public has no way of knowing for certain what accuses lawyers may be weighing against the Trump team or, in what would be an extraordinary development, against the president himself.

What can the special counseling analyse ?

Mueller is authorized to investigate “any links and/ or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and related issue. In other terms, potential collusion during the 2016 election.

But so-called ” collusion” is only part of it. The special counsel has the broad authority to build a prosecution wherever the inquiry may produce. The investigation has already resulted in charges against former Trump aides such as tax fraud that do not relate directly to election activity.

Anything else ?

In the course of the investigation, Trump’s past business practices have also come under scrutiny. With his first indictments of people in Trump’s orbit, the special counseling has demonstrated an craving for the prosecution of alleged white-collar crimes. The chairperson has denied all wrongdoing.

Photograph: Charles Dharapak/ AP

” Should the Mueller investigation find evidence of collusion or other crimes, it’s going to be the Republican who are going to have to make a decision on impeachment. Fox, which has effectively been a country news network, is cementing the base that will stay with Trump. If the base holds, it’s going to be very hard for Republican to hop ship .”

Matthew Miller , a partner at strategic advisory firm Vianovo and former justice department spokesman, concurred.

” The chairman has been trying to delegitimise the justice department going back to the summer ,” he said.” In the last couple of months we’ve seen the rest of the Republican party join in and follow his lead.

” There have been two goals. First, to kick up dust so there is something else to talk about after the president is under scrutiny. Second, to delegitimise the Mueller investigation so the president can burn him or Congress can dismiss his conclusions if he finds Trump broke the law .”

Mueller still has the public’s trust” but I’m not sure that matters to Republicans in Congress”, Miller said.” They’re more and more not accountable to public opinion. If “youre living in” a gerrymandered district where your biggest concern is a primary challenger, you’re no longer concerned about what other people believe .”

Donald Trump with his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Photo: Michael Reynolds/ EPA

Trump may consider aborting Mueller sooner rather than later, Miller said.” He likely flirted with get rid of Mueller and I reckon[ his lawyer Ty] Cobb told him:’ If you merely cooperate it will be over by the end of the year .’ But when January rolls around and Bob Mueller is not just not finished but closer to the president than ever before, there’s a very good chance he’ll look at it again.

” Six months ago I imagined there would be a bipartisan outcry, but you merely have to watch Fox News for five minutes to understand the partisan message that Mueller is on some kind of witch hunt. A lot of the Republican members live in an alternative reality where Fox dictates the terms of the debate.

” That seeps in and, if Trump is found to have colluded with Russia, I would not be surprised if Republicans let him get away with it .”

Bill Galston , a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, remains hopeful that Mueller’s authority is holding against the onslaught of conspiracy hypothesis and bilious punditry.

” They’re doing their best but so far they haven’t succeeded ,” he said.” The data shows there is solid and pretty stable majority support for the Mueller investigation. My bottom line opinion is that his recommendations will be given significant public weight. I suppose his reputation both predates him and strengthens him .”

As for Hannity’s diatribe, Galston, a senior chap in governance analyses at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, find dryly:” If you throw that various kinds of mud into a gale force breeze, it’s likely to come back in your face. I’m sure Mr Hannity knows a dishonor when he understands one and that’s in the mirror where reference is shaves every morning .”

Read more: https :// us-news/ 2017/ dec/ 10/ robert-mueller-trump-special-counsel-russia

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