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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."
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Go deeper

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 1 hour ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

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