President Trump started off his Wednesday morning with—shocker!—a tweetstorm demanding his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt,” also known as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The president said the probe needed to be stopped “before it continues to stain our country any further.” He continued: “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”
But Trump’s animosity towards Mueller didn’t always exist in its current state. In fact, there have been instances where Mueller was openly praised by White House staff. Trump’s whiplash-inducing public opinions on Mueller over time have seemed to oscillate as fast as the news cycle.
Immediately following Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey, the DOJ appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation.
In response, the president put out a statement, saying a “thorough investigation” would prove his innocence and he was looking “forward to this matter concluding quickly.”
But just one day after he issued that rather subdued May 2017 statement, he tweeted that the investigation was the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
Team Trump has since launched various attacks on the integrity of Mueller and his investigative team.
For example, top White House counsel Kellyanne Conway tweeted out an article pointing out that Mueller’s team “includes big Democrat donors. Some maxed out, none wanted Trump to be POTUS.”
That overarching accusation of political bias has become something of a war cry for Trump supporters, further intensifying after FBI agent Peter Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages were released and he testified about them before Congress.
Such attacks continued well into this year.
“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” the president declared on March 17 of this year. “It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC... WITCH HUNT!”
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added… does anyone think this is fair?” he continued. (Giuliani similarly tweeted that “Peter Strzok’s testimony was a disgrace” and it “taints the entire Mueller witchunt [sic]” on June 13.)
Trump and his officials, however, took a slightly calmer tone later in the spring when pressed on whether the president would sit down for an interview with Mueller’s team.
The president expressed a willingness to cooperate with Mueller’s probe in April, saying he “agreed with the historically cooperative, disciplined approach that we have engaged in with Robert Mueller.”
“He’s a patriot, a good man, served his country—did a good job with the FBI,” Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News host Sean Hannity in early May 2018. “I don't think he would be affected by malice or prejudice… I have an open mind about Bob.”
But then come July, around the time Strzok testified before Congress, the Trump team once again retreated to questioning the fitness of Mueller’s leadership over the Russia probe.
“Peter Strzok texted the theme of the Mueller investigation stop Trump. You can investigate an innocent man forever and never close the investigation,” Giuliani wrote on July 14. “After all these irrelevant indictments, 1.4 m documents and over 30 witnesses. STOP THE INVESTIGATION.”
The president himself chimed in, claiming the special counselor has conflicted interests and thus cannot fulfill his duty. In fact, Trump has mentioned Mueller’s unspecified “conflicts of interest” in June 2018 and again on Wednesday.
The president this weekend debuted his “Robert Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt” phrase, tweeting, that “There is No Collusion!” and that the Mueller probe is “headed now by 17 (increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer) Angry Democrats” and “is an illegal Scam!”
Trump’s team has also continuously wavered on whether the president would ever sit down with Mueller. Just this Tuesday, Giuliani told CNN: “I’m sure they are in bad faith about an interview at this point.”
WILL HE, WON’T HE?
Trump also denied wanting to personally fire Mueller back in April, tweeting, “If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him.”
And despite the president putting pressure on Sessions to end the investigation—even though the attorney general recused himself and handed over control to his deputy in Rod Rosenstein—Trump has not officially stated that he’d fire Sessions if he does not take action against Mueller.
Instead, he’s seemingly relied on his officials to talk publicly about it.
“There’s no doubt he’s complained about him, there’s no doubt he has some grievances,” Giuliani said back in May. “He’s not going to fire him before this is over… Nor do I think he should.”
But one important member of Team Trump, the president’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, recently tweeted the quiet part loud.
“Time to fire Sessions. End the Mueller investigation,” Parscale wrote in June. “You can’t obstruct something that was phony against you. The IG report gives [Trump] the truth to end it all.”