Donald Trump seeks to raise campaign cash off hearings
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Robert Mueller did a “horrible” job Wednesday during seven hours of hearings as Republicans sought to seize an opportunity to frame the national televised spectacle and use it to raise campaign cash.
“There was no defense of what Robert Mueller was trying to defend,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a fundraiser in West Virginia. “There was no defense to this ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt.”
Trump said he thought Republicans had “a very good day today” and argued that the investigation has been a “really bad thing for our country.” Trump said he thought Mueller did a “horrible” job, during the hearings and in previous months.
“In all fairness,” Trump said, “he had nothing to work with.”
Trump has sought to undermine the investigation since it began and has repeatedly claimed vindication during its most climatic moments. Democrats, by contrast, have focused on sections of the report that detail how the president ordered subordinates to shut down the probe, an order that wasn’t carried out.
Trump’s campaign was also active during the Mueller hearings, in which the former special counsel took questions from lawmakers on two committees throughout the day.
In a fundraising text claiming “there was NO COLLUSION!” and sent during the hearings, Trump’s campaign told donors: “Let’s tell the Dems to end this WITCH HUNT by raising $2,000,000 in 24 HOURS!” In a separate email, Trump’s campaign urged donors to “send a HUGE message to all of the Trump Haters.”
Trump’s campaign has so far consistently raised more money than any of the Democratic candidates seeking to unseat him next year.
Trump, who initially said he would not watch the hearings before acknowledging he might watch some, tweeted running commentary on Mueller’s testimony. Minutes after the hearings ended, Trump posted a cryptic tweet asserting that “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!”
He did not elaborate.
Testimony: ‘It is not a witch hunt.’ Mueller says on Russian election meddling probe
Takeaways: Top moments from Robert Mueller’s testimony on Russian interference
The president complained about the fairness of the investigation and denied that he sought to obstruct prosecutors looking into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election by hacking Democrats and pushing social media messages favorable to Trump.
Trump linto the Democrats more than Mueller himself, particularly Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who oversaw the second hearing.
Trump responds to Mueller
During a lunch break between the two sessions, Trump said he wanted to “thank the Democrats” for the hearings, and said that Mueller would then “subject himself to #ShiftySchiff – an Embarrassment to our Country!”
Schiff said Mueller’s testimony underscored evidence that Trump and his aides welcomed Russian help in his campaign. “The story of the 2016 election is a story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies,” Schiff said.
The Mueller hearings dominated White House activity just as it did all of Washington.
Television sets throughout the West Wing were turned to the proceedings, the volume turned up higher than normal. Staff members said they saw nothing worrisome in Mueller’s testimony, claims that White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham gave voice to in a tweet during a break between the hearings.
“The last three hours have been an epic embarrassment for the Democrats,” Grisham tweeted. “Expect more of the same in the second half.”
Disaster for Democrats?
In addition to his own criticisms, Trump peppered his Twitter feed by re-tweeting allies who denounced Mueller and quoting political analysts who questioned aspects of his testimony. At one point, Trump quoted Chris Wallace of Fox News as saying the morning hearing had been a “disaster” for both Democrats and Mueller’s reputation.
Hours later, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale echoed that assessment.
“These hearings were a disaster for Democrats,” Parscale said in a statement. “This entire spectacle has always been about the Democrats trying to undo the legitimate result of the 2016 election.”
Under questioning from lawmakers, Mueller said his report did not exonerate Trump from claims he sought to obstruct justice, echoing the Mueller report released in April. He also said Trump could conceivably be indicted after he leaves office.
Trump’s comments capped weeks of rhetorical efforts to marginalize Mueller’s testimony, a campaign the president and his aides carried out on social media, public statements, and in television interviews.
Trump’s basic message: House Democrats sought a “do-over” because the report that Mueller delivered in April did not have the impact they wanted.
Trump, citing his constitutional powers, said he was only fighting back against an unfair investigation, and that he had the authority to fire Mueller in any event. During his testimony, Mueller acknowledged that Trump could have fired him.
Democrats said Mueller produced evidence that Trump repeatedly sought to impede the investigation, including a desire to fire Mueller at different points of the investigation. They pointed to Mueller’s testimony that “the president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed” in the probe.
“Any other person who acted this way would have been charged with a crime,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which held the first hearing. “And in this nation, not even the president is above the law.”