The recent developments in the Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has once again reignited President Donald Trump’s anger at the controversy clouding his presidency. According to a Republican close to the White House, the president was enraged after seeing the developments unravel on Monday.
Campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted on Monday. Trump wasn’t surprised by the move, according to people close to him. However, George Papadopoulos’ pleading guilty was much less expected and significantly unnerved Trump’s allies.
Papadopoulos admitted he had made a false statements to the FBI regarding his communication with officials close to the Russian government. This, in turn, raised questions about Trump’s ties to Russia and their meddling with the election, which the president has repeatedly denied.
On Monday, Trump tweeted saying that the focus should not be on the indictment of Manafort, who he claims did not play as big a role in the campaign as the media have tried to portray, but on Hillary Clinton whom he called “crooked”.
Papadopoulos’ guilty plea shook Washington as it offers the most evident connection between the Trump campaign and Kremlin. Trump’s aides were taken off guard by the targeting of Papadopoulos by Mueller.
“The President is going, ‘Really, this is the guy?’” a senior White House official said when describing Trump’s reaction to Papadopoulos’ pleading guilty.
In the wake of these developments, some of Trump’s aides advised him not to criticize Mueller directly, while others are suggesting he should try to discredit the investigation as aggressively as possible.
“Calling for Mueller’s firing would undercut the White House argument”, a senior administration official said.
Among those advising against attacking Mueller is the chief of staff, who believes that Trump needs to cooperate with the special counsel in order to bring the probe to a conclusion as quickly as possible. Former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, however, is urging the White House to call on Republicans to cut funding and debate Mueller’s mandate in public.