Two weeks ago, Donald Trump was asked whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller acted honorably in his investigation of the Russia scandal. “Yes, he did,” the president replied, adding that it “wouldn’t bother me at all” if the full Mueller report was released.
Two days later, Trump added, “The Mueller report was great,” referring to a document he has not read. “It could not have been better.”
Contrast this posture with the one the president took this morning when asked about the possible disclosure of Mueller’s findings. After rambling for a while about how much federal investigators “truly hated Donald Trump” – he occasionally slips into third person for no reason – the president started unraveling a bit, lashing out at the “illegal” and “crooked” investigation.
“This was a – an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president. And we beat them. We beat them. So the Mueller report, when they talk about obstruction, we fight back. And do you know why we fight back? Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It was a scam. And what I’m most interested in … is getting started.
“Hopefully, the attorney general – he mentioned it yesterday – he’s doing a great job – getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started, because this was an illegal witch hunt and everybody knew it, and they knew it too. And they got caught.
“And what they did was treason. What they did was terrible. What they did was against our Constitution and everything we stand for…. What they did was disgraceful. There’s never been anything like it in the history of our country.”
I’m not altogether sure who, exactly, Trump thinks committed “treason,” and as a rule, that’s not the sort of word a sitting president should casually throw around.
But stepping back, it’s hard not to notice the profound rhetorical shift at the White House. Two weeks ago, Trump and his team were all smiles. They were not only satisfied with the “honorable” way in which Mueller conducted the investigation, West Wing officials were practically dancing in the halls, cheering as the president took a victory lap.
All of that has been replaced with Trump’s new, angrier posture, which is apparently predicated on the idea that the investigation – the one that “exonerated” him – was corrupt.
It’s hard not to wonder why the president would attack federal investigators – again – while simultaneously praising the results of their investigation.
A Republican close to the White House told Politico the other day, in reference to Trump, “He wouldn’t be bringing this up still if everything was hunky dory.” It’s a quote worth keeping in mind while we wait to see if/when the Mueller report sees the light of day.