Thursday 22 August 2019

Trump claims Mueller testimony as win for White House

“TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!” the president tweeted after the former special counsel’s testimony before Congress.

The investigation had cast a two-year shadow over the White House (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
The investigation had cast a two-year shadow over the White House (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

By Jonathan Lemire and Darlene Superville, Associated Press

US president Donald Trump said he probably would not watch, but former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday proved irresistible.

The president fired off an onslaught of tweets before the back-to-back hearings even began.

All told, he tweeted and retweeted more than two dozen times on Mr Mueller’s testimony about his investigation into the president and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

As it ended, Mr Trump tweeted, “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!”

Then he strode out of the White House and took a victory lap in front the reporters and cameras assembled on the South Lawn.

“It’s over,” Mr Trump declared. He blasted “the phoney cloud” created by the investigation and said, “there was no defence to this ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt.”

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Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Intelligence Committee (Susan Walsh/AP)

The investigation had cast a two-year shadow over the White House, unnerving aides, stalling staffing and triggering hundreds of angry tweets from the president, many of which involved phrases like “No collusion,” “No obstruction” and “Witch hunt”.

For all of that, the president had insisted earlier in the week, “I’m not going to be watching — probably — maybe I’ll see a little bit of it.”

The president referenced Fox News’ coverage of the hearings in several of his tweets and revealed that he was watching closely enough to deliver a detailed review of Mr Mueller’s presentation.

“The performance was obviously not very good. He had a lot of problems,” Mr Trump said, pointing to Mr Mueller’s lack of familiarity with some aspects of the investigation and accusing him of playing favourites.

“This was a devastating day for Democrats.”

Even as the testimony was still under way, Republicans were claiming it as a win.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, blasted Mr Mueller’s frequent stumbles and calls for questions to be repeated, tweeting that the former FBI director was “being destroyed on credibility, knowledge, competence and numerous ‘ahs,’ pauses and excuses such as ‘beyond my purview’.”

Mr Mueller’s nationally televised appearance on Capitol Hill was long anticipated as a potential pivot point for the presidency, one that could galvanise more House Democrats toward impeachment or help dispel the investigatory cloud that has shadowed the White House.

Mr Trump and his fellow Republicans unleashed a barrage of tweets and statements that continued a pattern of attacks in which Mr Trump has made baseless claims about Mr Mueller’s probe and its findings.

“So Democrats and others can illegally fabricate a crime, try pinning it on a very innocent President, and when he fights back against this illegal and treasonous attack on our Country, they call It Obstruction?” Mr Trump wrote in one early tweet. “Wrong! Why didn’t Robert Mueller investigate the investigators?”

In fact, the Mueller report did not declare there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Nor did the special counsel’s report exonerate Mr Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.

Mr Trump also revived a baseless charge that Mr Mueller was “highly conflicted”.

Mr Mueller, a long-time Republican, was cleared by the Justice Department’s ethics experts to lead the Russia investigation.

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