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Parton writes: "Trump's 'witch hunt' counterattack is working - with his base. It also might strengthen the coming blue wave."

Mueller and Trump. (photo: Getty Images/Salon)
Mueller and Trump. (photo: Getty Images/Salon)

Trump-Mueller: Now It's War

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

14 May 18

Trump’s “witch hunt” counterattack is working — with his base. It also might strengthen the coming blue wave

udy did it again. Last Friday, Giuliani gave an interview to the Huffington Post, and the subject of Trump fixer Michael Cohen's recently revealed arrangement with AT&T about the pending merger with Time Warner came up. In his usual thoughtless, arrogant fashion Giuliani explained that AT&T didn't get anything for their money because "the president denied the merger."

The president is not supposed to interfere in such decisions, and the White House has repeatedly denied that he did. But ever since the Department of Justice unexpectedly moved to block the merger, unless (among other things) the company agreed to spin off CNN, Donald Trump's nemesis, it had seemed likely Trump was behind the move. He had said on the campaign trail that he was opposed to the merger, but blocking it was considered an unusual decision by a Republican DOJ, and the stated rationale seemed thin. Considering Trump's repeated threats to take the Justice Department in hand and muzzle the press, it's not surprising people would wonder about all this.

The resulting lawsuit has been in court for some time, and the judge has not allowed AT&T's attorneys to pursue this line of inquiry, so the suspicions quieted down until Giuliani stuck his foot in it again. He later walked it back, of course, telling CNN's Dana Bash that the president had nothing to do with the decision after all. But it was yet another example of Giuliani creating more problems than he solves.

Not that he's shutting up, mind you. In fact, he telegraphed the Trump team's plans to "make a little fuss" this coming week over the length of the Mueller investigation as it approaches the one-year mark. They had already trotted out the talking point last week when Vice President Mike Pence sat down for an interview with Andrea Mitchell and put on his patented pained expression and sanctimoniously declared it was time to wrap it up, reminding everyone of another sanctimonious phony who served as veep and later president:

Nixon resigned seven months later.

Shameless as they are, or perhaps just historically illiterate, even after that embarrassing allusion, Trump and his henchmen are apparently going with this new P.R. push to try to force Mueller to close up shop. After all, he's only indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 19 people. If the man can't finish an investigation that runs from New York to Moscow into a possible criminal conspiracy to upend American democracy in a year, there's obviously nothing there.

According to The Washington Post, the administration is going on a "war footing" or, as Giuliani put it, “We’ve gone from defense to offense.” What that evidently means is a new push in the campaign of character assassination against Mueller himself. Trump's angry denunciations of the FBI, the DOJ and the special counsel have already had an effect.

According to a new Economist/YouGov poll, 75 percent of Republicans now agree that the Mueller investigation is a "witch hunt." Only 13 percent of the GOP believe it's legitimate. An alarming 61 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of independents believe the FBI is framing Donald Trump. Only 17 percent of GOP voters disagree with that. This is a testament to the efficacy of Trump's constant repetition on Twitter and television of mantras like "Witch hunt!" and "No collusion." Those have had their effect, particularly as they are echoed by Fox News and talk radio:

The president of the United States has managed to convince tens of millions of Republicans that he's being set up by his own Justice Department. That would seem to run counter to everything they have previously believed -- until you realize that his victimization at the hands of Big Government fits neatly into the well-worn grooves of the conservative movement's narrative about itself. Nobody knows the troubles they've seen.

Only 34 percent of Republicans believe that Trump should fire Mueller, while another 34 percent say he shouldn't, with the rest unsure. It's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it suggests that Trump still has some work to do if he's planning to take steps to end the investigation.

It has become an article of faith among the political class that the country doesn't care about any of this and that Trump and his problems are just a fetish inside the Beltway and among the political media. Speaker Paul Ryan spoke to a group in Wisconsin over the weekend and insisted that nobody cares about the Trump scandals:

Whether I'm running around southern Wisconsin or America, nobody is talking about Stormy Daniels. Nobody is talking about Russia. They're talking about their lives and their problems. They're talking about their communities, they're talking about jobs, they're talking about the economy, they're talking about national security.

This refrain is picking up speed on both sides of the aisle as the midterms approach. You would think that would motivate the White House and people around President Trump to try to calm the waters and tout their alleged accomplishments, rather than going on a war footing over the Russia investigation. After all they seem to have convinced their base that the whole thing is a hoax. But The Washington Post quoted former Trump legal adviser Mark Corallo saying, “I don’t see any downside at this point for the president and his team to make a full-throated public defense of their situation. There are very few outside the Beltway who are in the we-need-to-prosecute-and-impeach-this-guy camp.”

That sounds like wishful thinking. If the turnout in special elections over the past few months is any indication, Trump "fighting back" does have a galvanizing effect -- on the Democrats. In this polarized political world, for every member of the base he thrills with his tweeted war cries, there's a member of the Democratic base having exactly the opposite reaction. Trump's new "war footing" will likely raise their already high enthusiasm for winning back the Congress.

Donald Trump has an instinct for what his voters want to hear from him, and he knows how to deliver it the way they want it. His weakness is that he thinks everyone else agrees with him and it's just that the system is rigged and the media is dishonest. He believes the whole country, not just his base, deep down loves him. That's a very big blind spot. your social media marketing partner


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-26 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-05-14 12:05
I would not say it is war. Guiliani is a goof-ball. He says idiotic things on TV. Trump's other lawyers seemed too shy on TV and so Guiliani is probably what Trump needed. Most people to talk on TV say idiotic things.

The real problem is that the nation is sick of the Mueller Probe. It is only a search for some crime that can be pinned on Trump. I hate to agree with Ryan but he is correct. No one is talking about Stormy. It is a beltway fetish.

And Mueller is doing such a crappy job. Some of the Petersburg 13 defendants went to court last week and plead "not guilty." They want a trial, but Mueller said he was not ready and asked the judge for a delay. The judge refused. Why would any prosecutor file an indictment and not be ready to try the case? It is likely he will have to withdraw the indictment. After all, it was just plagiarized from a 2015 Voice of America article in Ukraine. There was no original investigation. In other words, Mueller got caught bluffing.

I don't think this is a war. It is just a democratic party opposition research campaign. And it is failing. The Dems better get going or Trump will win in 2018. That is the real horror. His policies are worse than hell -- and all the Dems can talk about is the Mueller Probe and Russia.

I felt a year ago Russiagate would backfire on Dems and now it is happening. Mueller is such a fuck up. Comey too. What a mistake to bet on these two losers.
+18 # Working Class 2018-05-14 13:40
The poor, poor picked on GOP. One entire year of investigation of their Dear Leader - the horror! Unfair they wail. It's time to close down the Mueller investigation. Its just so unfair that it has drug on for this long. I wonder if they can remember a guy named Ken Star? His investigation of Bill Clinton (no I am not a Clinton fan) lasted over four years. But hey they did learn he lied about a blow-job.
+15 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-05-14 13:43
Well it's been greatly profitable for the media to have a year long obsession with sleazy gossip (Stormy, etc., etc.) and ignore the Republicans accomplishing every wet dream since Ronald Reagan, cut taxes on the rich, deregulate Wall Street and the EPA (Environment), privatize education, sell off private parkland to extract resources, increase the military budget to feed the already bloated War Machine. Trump should welcome the Mueller distraction. Who cares about Iran, when those unpatriotic footballers kneel.
-7 # Anne Frank 2018-05-14 14:52
Now that Trump has capitulated and is giving the deep state the wars it demands, why does it keep chasing the red herring of hatred for Russia?
-7 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-05-16 09:49
I think it is personal. There have been about a dozen people in the FBI fired or forced to resign. They want payback. So does Hillary. So does Soros. So do Brennan, Clapper, Comey, and others whose careers were cut short by Trump's win. They are all determined to get Trump one way or another. They've hired real criminals like Glen Simpson of Fusion GPS or Michael Avenatti to go after Trump and smear him to death.

And they want a new cold war against Russia and China. That part of it will never stop, as it did not in the old cold war between 1945 and 1991.

This part of it is a war. The Guiliani part is not a war. Guiliani is only someone who is outrageous enough that the media likes him. They love it when he sticks his foot in his mouth.
+13 # Michaeljohn 2018-05-14 15:09
What else can we expect from a psychopathic
+4 # Nancy Jakeman 2018-05-14 17:21
Donald Trump is an actor acting a part on the wide stage of planet Earth. Of itself, this should wake us up to begin to wonder what OUR place is on centre stage of planet Earth. Buried within the subconscious mind (within the heart) lies the answer to why each one of us is present on Earth.
Once you do this, welcome back to Truth and Sweet Reason.
+17 # ericlipps 2018-05-14 17:43
Er . . . southern Wisconsin OR America?

It seems Rudy Giuliani isn't the only Trump defender with foot-in-mouth disease.

As for Trump's "going on offense"--again st his own Justice Department, the FBI and, it seems, anyone else who doesn't treat him like the hero he thinks he is--this is what we get for "electing" a president with the emotional maturity of an eight-year-old: government by tantrum.
-3 # HenryS1 2018-05-14 17:47
It makes sense to me that Trump's base listens more closely to him than the opposition, so more noise from him does him more net good. Look at the approval ratings and the success of the "witch hunt" campaign.

So, I think that "That sounds like wishful thinking." is itself wishful thinking, in context above. I wish I were wrong.
+10 # chrisconno 2018-05-15 11:19
All those guilty of the crimes they are being investigated for cry foul. What else would a treasonous moronic thug say if not 'NOT GUILTY'? What else does a child with his forbidden hand in the cookie jar say but "I didn't do it"? What corporate CEO doesn't call out the big guns when they are being investigated for securities fraud? All indicators point to a guilty as hell Trump, and so too so many republicans. Greed is an incredible motivator.
+3 # Robbee 2018-05-15 14:11
"dickhead" hunt?

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