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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

We're getting a vivid preview of how President Trump and his conservative allies will likely fight Robert Mueller if he accuses POTUS of obstructing justice, by firing James Comey/pressuring the FBI.

The chief attack: Mueller, the roots of his investigation and the FBI aren't on the level — and haven’t been since even before he took office. 

  • A longtime Trump political associate told me: "Using the Clinton-Starr playbook, kill the special investigator and obfuscate the charge. ... This is the Government against the People’s President. It is an easy narrative.”
  • Conservative media is exploding with stories/conspiracies about rampant corruption at the FBI and a “secret society” to undermine Trump and protect Hillary Clinton.
  • Conservative columnist Noah Rothman on Twitter yesterday: “I've done two conservative radio shows today playing a generally adversarial role in defense of the FBI. The grassroots is eating up the notion Trump is a victim of systemic corruption in law enforcement.”

Lots of attention is being paid to Trump's comments yesterday that he's willing to be interviewed under oath, and deservedly so.

  • But Trump's key line from yesterday's impromptu West Wing availability might be this, as the WashPost's Devlin Barrett notes: “Now they're saying, 'Oh well, did he fight back?' ... You fight back, oh, it’s obstruction."
  • Fox's Sean Hannity continued to build a narrative of an anti-Trump strain in the FBI when he reported this "game-changing development" last night: "[T]he Department of Justice has started to recover some of the five months' worth of missing text messages between FBI Agent Peter Strzok and ... Lisa Page."

The "everyone's dirty" scenario is less a coordinated strategy — with careful planning involved — than it is a reflection of Trump's genuine belief that the intelligence community is out to get him, Axios' Jonathan Swan points out:

  • Trump's right-wing base authentically believes the same, and sees the missing FBI text messages as evidence that there’s a Deep State out to get Trump.
  • Behind the scenes, Trump has been obsessing over the texts. He talks to plenty of people in his out-of-office hours, and in the residence, who fuel his sense that the intelligence community is populated by enemies out to get him — who are trying to engineer a coup and nullify his presidency.
  • Donald Jr. tops this list. 
  • Remember, one of the reasons Trump bonded so tight with Michael Flynn was their shared penchant for conspiratorial thinking. Flynn would use his many hours by Trump’s side on the campaign to fill his ears with his bitter analysis of Obama’s intelligence apparatus. 

Be smart: Trump has created “reasonable doubt” about Mueller’s investigation among a significant portion of the GOP base — enough that he may have already won his case with the “jury” that matters most to him and his political future.   

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

2 hours ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

3 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.