AUG 5, 2018: President Donald Trump has decamped to his New Jersey golf estate for an 11-day working vacation as he finds himself at a precarious moment in his presidency.
The move comes at a critical juncture in the investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 campaign as the US President decides in coming days whether to sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller or defy investigators and risk being issued a subpoena.
For months, Mueller has been seeking to question the president as part of his investigation, which is also examining whether Trump has sought to block that probe.
According to The Washington Post, Trump spent much of the past week brooding in private. He has been anxious about the Russia investigation’s widening fallout, with his former campaign chairman now standing trial. And he has fretted that he is failing to accrue enough political credit for what he claims as triumphs.
At rare moments of introspection, Trump has also expressed to confidants lingering unease about how some in his orbit – including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. – are ensnared in the Russia probe, in his assessment simply because of their connection to him.
Yet in public, Trump is a man roaring and churning out false statements with greater frequency and attacking his perceived enemies with intensifying fury.
This is the new, uneasy reality for Trump at an especially precarious moment of his presidency, with the Republican Party struggling to keep control of Congress, where a Democratic takeover brings with it the specter of impeachment, and Mueller’s grip seeming to tighten on the president and his circle, the WP wrote.
This portrait of Trump behind the scenes is based on interviews with 14 administration officials, presidential friends and outside advisers to the White House, many of whom spoke to WP only on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments.
But President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said, “He’s more definitive than ever: This investigation should end now, and Mueller should put out what he has.” “He doesn’t think they have anything, and he wants the country to move on.”
In public, Trump’s indignation with the Mueller investigation is boiling over with growing ferocity.
He has tweeted the phrase “witch hunt” a combined 46 times in June and July, up from 29 times in April and May, and more and more he is calling out Mueller by name.
Trump’s lawyers say it is the president himself who is calling the shots in what is becoming an all-out public relations blitz to discredit Mueller.
The frequency of the president’s mistruths has picked up, as well. The Washington Post Fact Checker found last week that Trump has now made 4,229 false or misleading claims so far in his presidency – an average of nearly 7.6 such claims per day, and an increase of 978 in just two months.
Trump has told some associates that Giuliani has convinced him Mueller has nothing incriminating about him. And Trump has latched onto Giuliani’s talking point that “collusion is not a crime,” believing it is catchy and brilliantly simplistic, according to people with knowledge of internal talks.
Still, Trump has confided to friends and advisers that he is worried the Mueller probe could destroy the lives of what he calls “innocent and decent people” – namely Trump Jr., who is under scrutiny by Mueller for his role organizing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. As one adviser described the president’s thinking, he does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal jeopardy.
Trump on Wednesday took his complaint that his political appointees at the Justice Department were not protecting him and his family and associates from the investigation to a new level when he tweeted, apparently on a whim, that “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now.” Trump’s lawyers later explained that the president was voicing his opinion, not giving an order, lest the presidential tweet provide Mueller fresh evidence of obstruction of justice.
On Thursday, he appeared to stand in conflict with his own government when he blasted “the Russian hoax” just hours after his national security team joined together at the White House on Thursday in a rare show of force to warn that Russia is yet again trying to interfere in U.S. elections. But a White House spokesman said Trump instructed them to hold the news conference and was adamant that they explain what the administration is doing to safeguard the midterm elections.
Midterm elections typically are referendums on the incumbent president.