The legal strategy dovetails with the Trump team’s political strategy: rallying the base with fear and loathing of the special counsel as a Democratic plot to nullify the 2016 presidential election.
“The only date that matters is November 6,” a Trump loyalist deeply involved in both the legal and political efforts tells me, referring to the 2018 midterms.
The Trump team had been pushing for a quick resolution of the special counsel’s investigation. Now they want to draw it out, attacking the investigating as a stalking horse for Democratic efforts to impeach the president.
“The only thing that gets the base out is fear of impeachment,” the Trump loyalist says. “You aren’t going to do that with tax cuts and deregulation.”
With Emmet Flood replacing Ty Cobb, the legal team won’t just end the strategy of cooperation with Mueller, they’ll try to reverse it.
Among the steps the Trump team is considering, I am told, is to retroactively exert executive privilege to attempt to prevent the special counsel from using things they already have: testimony from key aides like White House Counsel Don McGahn and some of the million pages of White House documents the Trump team has turned over.
“Yes, you are going to lose,” a source advocating this move tells me, but the battle would have to go the courts and it will take time, delaying Mueller’s work.
As a corollary: Don’t expect Trump to agree to an interview with Mueller, but look for him to draw out negotiations on an interview as long as possible.
Ironically, the merging of the legal and political strategies likely means job security for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller. If vilifying the special counsel is central to your election strategy, how can you fire him?
For all the talk of the president’s anger at all this, the source I talked to says he relishes this fight.
“Donald Trump is in a corner and the whole world is against him,” the source told me. “He loves it.”
If there were any question about that, the president said it himself Friday speaking to the NRA after yet again calling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”
“Let me tell you, folks, we’re all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles.”