This morning was hardly the first time Donald Trump threw a little Twitter tantrum directed at Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Russia scandal. But in a pair of presidential tweets, Trump said something today that broke new ground.
“The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t care how many lives the ruin.
“These are Angry People, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for 8 years. They won’t even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side. A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!”
At this point, there are all sorts of things we could focus on. We could note the irony of this president, whose White House is beset by chaos, accusing others of running a messy operation. We could explain that Robert Mueller, in reality, has no meaningful conflicts of interest. We could note that Mueller actually served as FBI director for eight years under George W. Bush, and stayed on for four more years under Barack Obama.
But as interesting as those tidbits may be, let’s not miss the forest for the trees. According to Trump, he now has knowledge about the “inner workings” of the special counsel’s team and their probe.
And how, pray tell, does the president know anything about the inner workings of the Mueller investigation?
It’s possible that the president has been having direct conversations – of dubious propriety – with witnesses who’ve spoken to investigators. It’s also possible that Trump himself is one of the people who feels as if he’s been “threatened” by Team Mueller, so Trump can speak with first-hand knowledge about investigators’ “anger.”
We also shouldn’t discount the possibility that Trump has simply made all of this up; he doesn’t know anything about the “inner workings” of the investigation; and his tweets were based solely on details cooked up in the president’s odd imagination.
But then there’s the other possibility: Trump appointed Matt Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general last week, and in that capacity, Whitaker – a Republican loyalist and staunch critic of Mueller’s probe – has direct oversight authority over the special counsel’s investigation.
In other words, last week, Mueller stopped reporting to Rod Rosenstein and started reporting to Matt Whitaker. Eight days later, for the first time, Trump told the public he has new insights into the “inner workings” of the special counsel’s efforts.
Maybe the timing is coincidental. Then again, maybe it’s not.