The White House has joined with Sinclair Broadcast Group and fellow Republican lawmakers to call for an end to congressional investigations of President Donald Trump, as part of the administration’s strategy to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Soon after the ad was issued, the New York Times published an account of Trump’s February Oval Office conversation with embattled national security adviser John Bolton about ending the Russia investigation. The Times described Trump as having “ordered Mr. Bolton to end the inquiry and to look into Mr. Russian meddling.” (It doesn’t elaborate on the context of the Russia and collusion charges.)
During the conversation, Bolton allegedly said something that convinced Trump, the Times said, that the Mueller probe was hurting his presidency. “He told Mr. Trump that he could count on him to stop it,” the Times reported.
During the congressional investigations into Russia, some members of the Trump administration have also tried to discredit Mueller’s investigation by questioning the investigation’s legitimacy and suggesting that the media is engaged in a conspiracy against Trump. Just hours after the memo was released, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page launched a Twitter account to attack the investigation. The White House continued to peddle this argument by bragging that Trump had served under many investigations and winning the legal battles over the period in question. In one August Tweet, Trump called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt” and a “political witch hunt.”
Trump’s latest strategy in the Mueller probe, attempting to discrediting the investigation by belittling its legal process, hasn’t passed a meaningful legal hurdle. In fact, two recent Supreme Court rulings and an advisory opinion to courts rendered the procedures used to put on trials illegal for presidentially appointed officials, as further outlined by veteran lawyer Robert Kelner. Moreover, a Republican House judiciary committee chair released a memo that said the panel’s constitutionally required constitutional review can “harm” Trump’s presidency by digging up problems that reflect poorly on his ability to discharge his official duties.
But while the legal claims have failed, the political and media acceptance of this tactic has helped Trump maintain his power. On Dec. 22, the day the memo was released, he used a Twitter post to accuse his critics of trying to “HIDE the truth” about corruption in the media.
During the 2018 midterm elections, Trump used the Mueller probe to spread his populist message throughout the country. In addition to labeling the probe a Democratic conspiracy against him, Trump also often pushed stories alleging bias and abuse of power by key members of the media, using the probe as a gateway for domestic political attacks on media companies, the press, and general Democrats.
A new Gallup poll from Dec. 11-14 found that nearly two-thirds of Americans think Trump is doing a “bad” or “somewhat bad” job as president, while just 34% say he’s performing “excellent” or “good.” That’s up from 24% in September, when only 29% thought the job was going well. For comparison, Gallup found that 20% said Barack Obama’s job performance was “somewhat good” and 16% said it was “excellent.”
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