The redacted version of the Mueller report released on Thursday was not flattering to President Trump. Though the special counsel determined that the “high standard” for criminal prosecution regarding conspiracy with Russia was not met, the report detailed a sophisticated, multi-pronged effort to attack the 2016 election in service of Trump, and the Trump campaign’s enthusiasm to accept the help. It also laid out several instances in which Trump attempted to obstruct justice before ultimately putting the onus on Congress to respond accordingly.
Donald Trump has claimed the report exonerates him while simultaneously bashing the special counsel’s investigation. Less than 24 hours after tweeting a Game of Thrones meme proclaiming Robert Mueller’s findings meant it was “Gave Over” for his “hater,” on Friday morning Trump tweeted that the “Crazy Mueller Report” was written by “Angry Democrat Trump Haters” and contains statements that are “bullshit.”
Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called “notes,” when the notes never existed until needed. Because I never….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2019
…agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad). This was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2019
Why, again, did Trump refuse to testify? Because he was so innocent, right?
Trump’s tirade on Friday underscores the obvious: That the president is going to be complaining about the Mueller report for the rest of his life. When he learned of the special counsel’s appointment back in 2017, Trump said, “I’m fucked,” and it’s true — he’s never been this fucked in entire life. The countless damning revelations in the report will hang over him forever, which means he will complain about it forever. He’s still complaining about Hillary Clinton well over two years after defeating her in the 2016 election.
Trump wasn’t the only administration member whose indiscretions were detailed in the report. Mueller also writes that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied to the press about hearing that “countless” FBI employees had lost confidence in James Comey. “Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything,” the report reads.
Sanders attempted to defend herself on Hannity Thursday night, calling the lie a simple “slip of the tongue.” On Friday morning, she was asked about it again by an actual journalist. On Good Morning America, George Stephanopolous challenged Sanders’s slip-up defense by pointing out that she repeated the lie twice. Sanders responded by saying again that it was merely a “slip of the tongue,” maintaining that there were plenty of FBI agents who agreed with the president about Comey. When Stephanoplous continued to challenge her, she retreated to a safe space: blaming Democrats. “It was the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn’t a scripted talking point,” she said. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t a robot like the Democratic Party.”
Pressed repeatedly on her comments on FBI agents, Sarah Sanders tells @GStephanopoulos, "It was the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn't a scripted talking point. I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democratic Party" was about Mueller probe. https://t.co/mOQZNKl1wy pic.twitter.com/y3xcNwVYHg
— ABC News (@ABC) April 19, 2019
The “culture of lying,” as Stephanoplous put it, detailed in the report is staggering, but not staggering enough for the White House to categorically deny. During an appearance on Anderson Cooper 360, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley went to absurd lengths to avoid answering Cooper’s questions about the president’s mendacity, particularly his attempt to get Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to lie to the public.
Despite pressure from Cooper, Gidley could only manage that if the president would have been indicted by now if there was any evidence of wrongdoing. The conversation ultimately devolved into garbled crosstalk as a perplexed Cooper continued to try to get Gidley to respond to the allegations. “He hasn’t lied to me,” Gidley said eventually, before detailing the president accomplishments.
“I feel bad that you’re scared to say that your boss lied. I would not work in that situation,” Cooper responded before ending the interview.
CNN's @AndersonCooper: "Did the President lie? Did the President lie?"
Hogan Gidley: "No, I'm not aware of him lying. He hasn't lied to me."
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 19, 2019
Though Cooper was flabbergasted, there was no chance anyone in the administration was going to concede any wrongdoing in the wake of the report’s release, regardless of what the report laid out explicitly. The White House communications team long ago absorbed Trump’s “deny, deny, deny” ethos, which he demonstrated again Friday morning by claiming all the unsavory aspects of the report were “bullshit,” going to write that the investigation “was an Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened, a…”
He cuts off the thought there, though. He’s now golfing at Mar-a-Lago.