Dec 18, 2017

Muddying Mueller: Trump allies say strategy working

Photos: AP

President Trump said yesterday "No, I'm not" when asked if he's considering firing Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Truth is, his high-level Republican allies don't think he will need to.

Be smart: The Trump lawyers' strategy is to cooperate with Mueller on the inside game. The outside chorus tries to rough up Mueller, in case his findings are trouble for POTUS.

  • The rising conservative drumbeat to discredit the investigation and the investigators is gaining GOP converts.
  • Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the chamber's #2 Republican, said on ABC yesterday that it would be "a mistake" to fire the special counsel. But Cornyn tweeted a day earlier: "Mueller needs to clean house of partisans."
  • Trump said yesterday when asked about the tens of thousandsof transition emails Mueller had obtained from the GSA, which ran the server: "Not looking good. It's not looking good. It's quite sad to see that. My people are very upset about it. ... A lot of lawyers thought that was pretty sad."
  • A source close to the White House said: "You're starting to win over mainstream conservatives to the backlash over overreach."
  • The source said that Trump, not known for patience, has attacked the investigation but mostly resisted personalizing attacks on Mueller. One sign: Trump isn't calling Mueller by a demeaning nickname.

The N.Y. Times' Michael Schmidt reports that "as the investigation has reached deeper into Mr. Trump's inner circle, ... Trump's lawyers and supporters have significantly increased their attacks on Mr. Mueller":

  • "[T]he F.B.I. has handed them fresh ammunition to claim that the agents investigating the president may be biased."
  • But, but, but: "Legal experts said there was no indication that Mr. Mueller, who has wide power to obtain documents through written requests, subpoenas and search warrants, improperly obtained the transition emails."

Fox News' Jesse Watters (one of the 45 Twitter accounts Trump follows) used the onscreen headline "A COUP IN AMERICA?" this weekend as he decried what he called "smoking-gun evidence" the probe of Trump is tainted:

  • Watters: "Is the FBI part of the resistance? It's like the FBI had Michael Moore investigating the president of the United States. ... The investigation into Donald Trump's campaign has been crooked from the jump."
  • CNN's Brian Stelter dissects the "War on Mueller" feedback loop: "The right-wing commentary and President Trump's criticism of the FBI are part of a vicious circle. The TV hosts encourage Trump, then Trump supplies sound bites for their shows, and then the hosts are even more emboldened."

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 857,957 — Total deaths: 42,139 — Total recoveries: 178,091.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 188,547 — Total deaths: 3,899 — Total recoveries: 7,068.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1. A federal judge on Tuesday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 10 detained immigrants who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in confinement.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: UN warns of recession with "no parallel" to recent past

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 856,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

White House projects 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths

President Trump said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the next two weeks in the U.S. will be "very painful" and that he wants "every American to be prepared for the days that lie ahead," before giving way to Deborah Birx to explain the models informing the White House's new guidance on the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's a somber new tone from the president that comes after his medical advisers showed him data projecting that the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health