Former Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt hands a figurine to President Trump after he signed a policy directive to send American astronauts back to the moon. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP
President Trump's legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session's Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.
The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.
Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.
- The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: "A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election."
- Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate."
- Unlike some other vocal Republicans, Trump's lawyers say they respect Mueller and trust him, and want to get to the finish line with him.
- In November, the WashPost reported: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia."
Trump lawyers' strategy: Cooperate with Mueller, and insist publicly they have nothing to hide, and expect the president to be fully cleared early in the new year.
- Behind the curtain: Trump's non-legal aides seem way more nervous, and some tell me that they assume the end will be neither near nor pleasant.
Be smart: Among Republicans, the argument that the investigation is tainted is picking up steam, including comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Friday: "I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night cites a "fire-Mueller freakout on the right": "Everyone's throwing red flags on the possibility of firing Robert Mueller, on both sides of the aisle."
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