On Sunday, Donald Trump rang his legal team on his way back to Washington, D.C. after a weekend at his private Palm Beach getaway Mar-a-Lago and told them to haul themselves over to the White House for an impromptu celebration.
In an official summary of the finalized report helmed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that Mueller and his investigative team found no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russian government, though the report also features inconclusive findings as to whether the president obstructed justice.
This was enough to send Trump into a state of bliss, feeling that his “NO COLLUSION” mantra of the past two years had just received the special counsel's and Department of Justice’s seal of approval.
For the president, it was time to celebrate, and plot revenge.
Arriving back at the White House on Sunday evening, an elated Trump convened members of his outside legal team—Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin, and Martin Raskin—as well as the White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in the private residence to thank them for having his back during the Mueller saga.
“He congratulated our entire team,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast, adding that Sunday’s “low-key” gathering of Trump’s legal defenders lasted roughly 45 minutes. “A lot of it was going over what happened, and what’s likely to happen in the future.”
“This is not done yet,” the Trump attorney and former New York City mayor said, noting that he and Sekulow are still serving as the president’s personal lawyers, and that the whole Mueller report hasn’t even been made public or shown to Trump’s attorneys yet.
Even with many questions left unanswered and just as many unknowns, the president and the full force of all Trumpworld seemed rededicated this week to its new mission statement: to exact gleeful punishment on their tormentors—in the media, on Capitol Hill, in law enforcement—and turn the Mueller report summary into heavy artillery for Trump’s coming reelection blitz.
The president himself seemed primed for some vengeance following his declaration of victory.
“We’re glad it’s over,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Monday. “There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things—very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country and hopefully…people that have done such harm to our country, we’ve gone through a period of really bad things happening. Those people will certainly be looked at. I’ve been looking at them for a long time and I’m saying, ‘Why haven't they been looked at?’”
The same day, the 2020 Trump campaign blasted out a memo—addressed to “Television Producers”—from its comms director Tim Murtaugh, regarding the “Credibility of Certain Guests.”
The memorandum slammed Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, Democratic lawmakers such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and former CIA Director John Brennan, for “outrageous and unsupported claims made in the past,” and chided news outlets for amplifying them. “At this point, there must be introspection from the media who facilitated the reckless statements and a serious evaluation of how such guests are considered and handled in the future.”
This was said without an apparent hint of irony, given that prominent members of Trumpworld have lengthy track records of appearing on TV and cable news programs, often spouting lies and demonstrably false statements, typically without consequence.
According to a senior Trump campaign official, the memo was “sent to producers at all networks and all cable news outlets.” Meridith McGraw, a White House producer for ABC News and one of the recipients, said that the campaign’s media criticism was emailed to her, unprompted and unsolicited, on Monday afternoon.
Elsewhere on the campaign, the mood was jubilant. Asked for comment on the week’s developments, Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser on Trump’s 2020 team, simply messaged The Daily Beast a meme of gangsters in a restaurant in the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, with the words, “HOW MANY RUSSIANS DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE HILLARY CLINTON LOSE AN ELECTION? NONE!” printed on the image of laughing mobsters.
Beyond the victory laps and own-the-libs euphoria, there were also stern calls for reprisal investigations against the “Deep State,” and for brutal war against its Democratic enablers.
On Capitol Hill, Trump allies swiftly called for retaliation on some of the president’s favorite targets. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who played golf with Trump in Florida on Sunday, called for a “Mueller-like figure” to investigate the FBI for allegedly working to sink the president—and to probe Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. He vowed to use his power as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to haul figures like former FBI Director James Comey and former British spy Christopher Steele—author of the infamous Trump dossier—before senators.
“What happens next,” Graham said at a press conference, “is that I have been talking since 2017 about the other side of the story. And nobody much appeared to care, but I hope you will find some interest now.”
Meanwhile, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to put the squeeze on House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the lead defenders of the Russia investigations and a frequent Trump target. McCarthy said Schiff owed the American people an apology and said “there is no question he should step down from the Intel chairmanship."
One of the president’s biggest Capitol Hill cheerleaders, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), told reporters Monday evening that he agrees with McCarthy, and said Schiff has spent “22 months lying to the country.”
“He said he had cold, hard evidence of collusion,” Gaetz said. “His evidence doesn’t even constitute warm and flaccid.”
Team Trump also entered its second straight day of fundraising off of the Mueller report news, with the 2020 campaign texting supporters on Monday afternoon, “Dems WASTED 2 years and $25 million of YOUR money! NO COLLUSION & COMPLETE EXONERATION! Fight back! Donate NOW to 4X-MATCH your gift.”
Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for the campaign, branded the last two years as the Democratic opposition’s “desperate quest for power,” and swore that “on November 3, 2020, they will be held to account.”
Other Trump associates, particularly those caught up in maelstrom of the Trump-Russia investigations, are demanding a far more expansive payback.
Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser who himself became a peripheral figure in the Russia inquiries, told The Daily Beast on Monday, his total legal costs have reached upwards of $200,000, his business has had to close two offices, he has had to lay off half his employees, and his firm had shed 70 percent of its client base.
Caputo said nothing short of the appointment of a second special counsel—to investigate the investigation—will do. A year ago, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rebuffed Republicans’ calls to do just that.
“The American people deserve to know where the genetic code of this investigation is coming from,” Caputo said. “Why did my family, my children, myself, my company, my employees, my clients, why did they all get trashed?… Anyone who pushes back on appointing a special counsel to find out where this politically commissioned investigation came from is hiding something.”
For now, it’s unclear how specific, or internally persistent, the president will get in his calls for a full-blown counter-investigation. President Trump “has said he believes this should be investigated, and people should find out why this happened,” Giuliani said. When asked if Trump supports the idea of the attorney general naming a new special counsel, Trump’s personal attorney said, “I don’t think the president has formulated in his mind how it should be done yet.”
One person who may escape Trump’s wrath is the man who has spent nearly half of this president’s first term probing him, his campaign, his business empire, his inner circle, and the activities of his family members.
When asked if Mueller acted honorably during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, President Trump—who has routinely called the investigation “illegal” and a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly insulted the special counsel’s conduct and character—told reporters on Monday: “Yes, he did.”