And he's scared. Poor thing.
President Trump woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming.
Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him.
The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.
Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!”
But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
The notoriously thin-skinned, easily-baited, entirely predictable old man is now Elvis, shooting the TV.
But Trump’s anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown. As the president groused upstairs, many staffers — some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller’s investigation — privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.
“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”
Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller’s probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family.
Clock's ticking for Trump and he knows it. He knows Mueller has him. He knows there's no way out. And frankly I think there's a chance he might throw in the towel.
But I doubt that will happen. A bully punched in the nose may back off for a while, but then they'll come back at you with twice the rage that you dared to stand up to them, and I expect we'll see Trump's response before he leaves for his Asia trip later this week.
I expect it won't be pretty. If another indictment comes this week, all bets are off. The smart money is on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but there's also a chance that Sam Clovis, Trump campaign co-chair and current nominee for the USDA's top science position (even though he's not a scientist at all) could be named next. After all, the evidence strongly points to him being involved in the events detailed in George Papdopoulos's indictment.
Corey Lewandowski too is most likely in the crosshairs. Manafort after all replaced him on the Trump team, but back in March 2016 Lewandowski was running the campaign and would have certainly known what was going on with the putative contacts to Russia to get dirt on Hillary.
Finally, former US Attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara gives some insight as to where he thinks the Mueller case is going.
“Hard to tell, but the George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously,” Bharara said, referring to the former unpaid Trump campaign adviser, whose plea deal rocked Washington on Monday. “That should be of concern to some people.”
Remember, Bharara was fired by Trump.
We'll see who's next, but I guarantee you more indictments are coming, and soon. As Preet says, Mueller is moving fast. Now that he's pulled the pin on this indictment grenade, the real fun begins.