‘A good day’: Trump claims victory with Mueller report out
For nearly two years, President Donald Trump and his allies sought to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, attacking investigators’ credibility and playing down their findings.
As a redacted version of Mr Mueller’s report was finally released on Thursday, Mr Trump resorted to bluster, broadsides and falsehoods to try, once more, to frame the moment as a political victory.
It began even before the public glimpsed the two volumes covering 448 pages.
The report included an account of how the president attempted to seize control of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and force out Mr Mueller from leading the inquiry.
But that did not stop Mr Trump from taking a public victory lap, declaring at a White House event that he was having “a good day”.
Twelve times Mr Trump took to Twitter in the hours before Attorney General William Barr outlined the findings of the report.
The president proclaimed his innocence and insisted that the investigation was politically motivated.
As soon as Mr Barr concluded his remarks, and more than an hour before Mr Mueller’s report was released, Mr Trump tweeted a taunt over an image inspired by the HBO show Game Of Thrones.
“No Collusion. No Obstruction,” it said. “For the haters and the radical left Democrats — Game Over.”
But the report does recount how Mr Trump repeatedly sought to intervene in a probe that has hovered over the first two years of his presidency.
And it says Mr Trump had been agitated by the investigation from the start, reporting that Mr Trump reacted to Mr Mueller’s appointment by saying it was the “end of his presidency”.
At Justice Department headquarters, reporters buzzed around as they awaited Mr Barr and then the Mueller report.
Nearby, there was calm on one of the defining days of Mr Trump’s presidency.
The news media were led into the White House East Room, just before the report came out, for Mr Trump’s appearance at a Wounded Warrior event.
While newsrooms across the country digested the report, the White House guests, already seated while waiting for the president to arrive, were entertained by the US Marine Band.
Among the selections played: Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
“Knockout,” read a text message from Rudy Giuliani, one of the president’s lawyers, to reporters after Mr Barr finished speaking.
A further statement from Mr Giuliani and Mr Trump’s lawyers said “the report itself is nothing more than an attempt to rehash old allegations” and insisted that “the results of the investigation are a total victory for the president”.
Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, was featured prominently in the report for meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016.
Although the report said “the campaign anticipated receiving derogatory documents and information” from Russians that “could assist Trump’s electoral prospects”, it said “the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the participants at that meeting “had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful”.
The younger Trump tweeted a series of attacks on Democrats. “Better luck next hoax!” he said.
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said that because the White House did not interfere with Mr Mueller’s work, that “should make people feel good about democracy”.
“We’re accepting apologies today, too,” Ms Conway told reporters, adding that Mr Trump watched Mr Barr, talked to his lawyers and was in “a great mood”.
The president, who normally talks to reporters on his way out of the White House, declined to speak as he left to spend the Easter weekend in Florida.
But from Air Force One, he tweeted: “I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!”
Appearing relaxed earlier on Friday at a military event, Mr Trump said a statue he had been presented with as a memento would have a permanent home “at least for six years, in the Oval Office”.
As the audience applauded and laughed, Mr Trump said he was going to joke and say “at least for 10 or 14 years, but we would cause bedlam if I said that”.