President Trump, politicians react to Mueller report after initial upbeat view

AG William Barr released the Mueller report, with redactions. (Courtesy: CNN)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is lashing out at current and former aides who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, insisting the deeply unflattering picture they painted of him and the White House was “total bullshit.”

In a series of angry tweets from Palm Beach, Florida, Trump laced into those who, under oath, had shared with Mueller their accounts of how Trump tried numerous times to squash or influence the investigation and portrayed the White House as infected by a culture of lies, deceit and deception.

“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,” Trump wrote Friday, adding that some were “total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad).”

The attacks were a dramatic departure from the upbeat public face the White House had put on it just 24 hours earlier, when Trump celebrated the report’s findings as full exoneration and his counselor Kellyanne Conway called it “the best day” for Trump’s team since his election. While the president, according to people close to him, did feel vindicated by the report, he also felt betrayed by those who had painted him in an unflattering light — even though they were speaking under oath and had been directed by the White House to cooperate fully with Mueller’s team.

The reaction was not entirely surprising and had been something staffers feared in the days ahead of the report’s release as they wondered how Mueller might portray their testimony and whether the report might damage their relationships with Trump.

While Mueller found no criminal evidence that Trump or his campaign aides colluded in Russian election meddling and did not recommend obstruction charges against the president, the 448-page report released Thursday nonetheless paints a damaging picture of the president, describing numerous cases where he discouraged witnesses from cooperating with prosecutors and prodded aides to mislead the public on his behalf to hamper the Russia probe he feared would cripple his presidency.

The accounts prompted Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who has sometimes clashed with Trump, to release the following statement:

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia.”

As Senate Democrats begin to call for Trump’s impeachment based on Mueller’s evidence, Romney is one of the first Republican senators to sharply rebuke the actions outlined in the report. Romney has historically been one of the harshest Republican critics of the President.

“Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,” he said.

Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary to former President George W. Bush, said in an appearance on Fox News that he didn’t understand why Trump decided to send his tweets lashing out at former aides.

“I think it’s over,” he said. “If I were the president, I would have basically declared victory with the Mueller report and everything that came out and move beyond it.”

Still, he said he hoped the White House had learned some lessons.

“The president and his entire team needs to realize how close they came to being charged with obstruction,” Fleischer said. “Asking your staff to lie and engaging in some of the activities that the Mueller report stated the president engaged in is too close to obstruction. And that’s a lesson I hope everybody at the White House takes with them going forward.”

Continuing coverage, here.

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