WH: Nothing of value in Mueller revelations

The President says there is nothing to see here, but court fillings suggest otherwise. CNN's Victor Blackwell discusses the latest in the Russia investigation.

Posted: Dec 10, 2018 6:57 AM
Updated: Dec 10, 2018 7:21 AM

President Donald Trump is dipping into his playbook of distraction and denial, but even his skills at weaving alternative narratives cannot disguise the growing threat he faces from special counsel Robert Mueller.

On Saturday, Trump announced the exit of chief of staff John Kelly, dismissed new revelations from the Russia probe, slapped familiar foes and promoted violent demonstrations challenging his erstwhile friend, French President Emmanuel Macron.

But while he can spin new stories for the media to chase, the President seems powerless to stop Mueller's relentless focus on his own conduct in the 2016 campaign and ever since.

A week of legal filings related to the Russia investigation has only increased the President's vulnerability and raised new questions about whether his campaign cooperated with a Russian election meddling effort.

The more Mueller's work seems to uncover contacts with Russians by people inside Trump's orbit and evidence that they lied about what happened, the more the President argues that he is being vindicated and cleared.

"We're very happy with what we're reading because there was no collusion whatsoever," Trump told reporters before heading to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

Trump tweeted earlier Saturday that it was "time for the Witch Hunt to END" and quoted Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, saying "this is collusion illusion" and "there is nothing impeachable here."

The President has a long record of disregarding evidence that contradicts his preferred version of events. And Trump has mounted a long campaign to discredit the special counsel, apparently seeking to devalue any eventual conclusions that are critical of his conduct.

But the deepening record of the Mueller investigation is raising the possibility that Trump's talent in creating alternative realities is facing its stiffest test yet.

New and damaging information for the White House comes at a time when every move by Mueller appears to bring his investigation deeper into the White House and Trump's inner circle, and shows it has expanded well beyond what may or may not have happened in the 2016 campaign.

So the President has every reason to change the subject.

Kelly's departure has long been expected given an apparently fractious relationship with the President and his diminishing influence in a riotous White House he once tried to tame with military-style discipline.

"I appreciate his service very much," Trump said, of a respected retired general who also served as his first homeland security secretary.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported Saturday that Trump was in talks with Nick Ayers, who current serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, to succeed Kelly. But the elevation of Ayers is not certain, as he is looking to move his young family back to Georgia and may only want to do the job in the short term.

Trump also took time to tweet about violence in France that has rocked the Macron government and caused the cancellation of fuel tax increases designed to wean consumers off fossil fuels that cause global warming.

"Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it's time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Deepening jeopardy

Taunting a fellow world leader who was once a friend but has recently criticized the President's nationalistic worldview might be a pleasant diversion for Trump, but cannot change the reality of the widening special counsel probe.

Mueller is clearly now looking not just at allegations of possible cooperation of Trump associates with Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, but at possible obstruction of justice even after the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. That much became clear when CNN reported on Friday that the special counsel has spoken to Kelly in recent months. The chief of staff did not even take the job until July 2017.

A series of filings and court action this week by Mueller, federal prosecutors and attorneys for the President's former lawyer Michael Cohen and former national security adviser Michael Flynn appeared to significantly sharpen the threats facing Trump and key associates.

None of the documents amount to criminal action against the President himself. But they tell an indirect tale of allegedly questionable behavior by the then-GOP nominee.

For the first time, prosecutors said Trump directed Cohen to make payments designed to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump, which broke campaign finance laws.

Mueller also drew a link between Trump's business interests and the Russian election meddling effort. He pointed out that work on a proposed Trump Tower Moscow project that continued until deep into the campaign in June 2016 -- and which Cohen lied about -- came "at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the US presidential election."

Mueller also confirmed that he has benefited from substantial cooperation from Cohen and Flynn, and that he has documentary evidence in addition to testimony from witnesses. This raises the likelihood that he has built a comprehensive picture into what went on in the Trump campaign, the transition and in the White House, even though he is yet to reveal everything publicly in heavily redacted documents.

Trump and his legal team insist, however, that the President is in the clear.

"When you look at what was revealed today, there's nothing that links the President to collusion with the Russians, so maybe they should fold up their tent, give a report to the Justice Department and go home," Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani told CNN's Pam Brown on Friday.

Giuliani also said the President never told Cohen to pay women who claimed affairs with him, adding that such payments would not count as a campaign contribution.

The depth of the President's legal and political difficulties will only become clear when Mueller files a final report -- and Trump's team will have the chance to challenge his findings and make their defense. But it's increasingly looking like the President's denials and distractions are failing to keep up with the special counsel's accelerating pace.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17741191
Hinds16891332
Harrison14279204
Rankin11239220
Jackson10917190
Lee9071145
Madison8599169
Jones6731118
Forrest6208124
Lauderdale6121192
Lowndes5544120
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Lamar505865
Washington4933125
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Monroe3686110
Warren3685103
Marshall357170
Union356864
Pearl River3495106
Neshoba3490154
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Hancock294262
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Tate280662
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Pike270181
Itawamba269363
Scott260048
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Tippah249750
Simpson242872
Leake238167
Marion224273
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Wayne213734
Winston207671
George204739
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Attala197064
Tishomingo194961
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Jasper181138
Holmes172068
Clay166837
Tallahatchie157235
Stone152525
Clarke148162
Calhoun141322
Smith130026
Yalobusha123335
Walthall114537
Greene113729
Noxubee113026
Montgomery112036
Carroll106822
Lawrence106817
Perry105131
Amite102126
Webster96824
Tunica89021
Claiborne88825
Jefferson Davis88430
Benton85823
Humphreys84724
Kemper80920
Quitman7139
Franklin70617
Choctaw63713
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
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Elmore8214110
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Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
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Sumter90527
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