At this stage in the Trump-Russia scandal, we’re aware of quite a few instances in which the president has intervened, to one degree or another, in the hopes of protecting himself from the controversy’s fallout. It’s hard not to wonder, though, about the instances we don’t know about.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), for example, took steps several weeks ago to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from possible removal. The effort was well grounded – Donald Trump had already publicly raised the prospect of trying to oust the former FBI director leading the investigation. Politico, however, shed new light on what transpired behind the scenes:
Trump dialed up Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Aug. 7, two days before a blunt call with the Senate majority leader that spilled over into a public feud. Tillis is working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating the president’s Russia connections, from any attempt by Trump to fire him.
The Mueller bill came up during the Tillis-Trump conversation, according to a source briefed on the call – the latest signal of the president’s impatience with GOP senators’ increasing declarations of independence from his White House. Trump was unhappy with the legislation and didn’t want it to pass, one person familiar with the call said.
In other words, after learning that Tillis was working in a bipartisan fashion to protect Mueller, the president thought it’d be a good idea to reach out to Tillis to complain about the proposal.
This is obviously the sort of thing we’d expect from a president panicking about the threat posed by a scandal, but the Washington Post published a helpful list yesterday noting each of the times Trump has quietly tried to call off the dogs pursuing the Russia scandal. It’s not a short list, and it includes several well-known gems, including Trump seeking “loyalty” from then-FBI Director James Comey and asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to help “protect him” from congressional inquiries into the Russia affair.
I’m still eager to know, however, about the attempts that haven’t already been exposed.
The Post counted seven different instances that have been publicly documented, but there’s no reason to assume the record is now complete. Indeed, of the seven examples from the article, two were uncovered just this week. The number may yet go up again.