Updated 1:13 p.m. | At the White House, special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s Russia election meddling investigation has quickly morphed from a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” into the “gold standard.”
“The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said no collusion, no obstruction. It could not be better,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the Capitol as he arrived for a meeting with Senate Republicans.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, his team hammered the probe for two years as illegitimate and based on a Democratic hope that his 2016 campaign conspired with the Russian government to hand him the general election win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Just on Sunday, minutes after Attorney General William P. Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report was released, Trump called the probe an “illegal takedown that failed.”
The president, his White House aides and his surrogates on Capitol Hill have since taken a victory lap over Mueller not establishing his campaign was involved in a conspiracy with Russians, while also downplaying the former FBI director being unable to exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. In a classic case of Washington’s ever-changing landscape in the Trump era, Democrats are questioning Barr and even Mueller, while White House officials have begun praising the latter’s work.
Also watch: Lindsey Graham calls for a special counsel investigation on ‘the other side of the story’ following Mueller report
“The Mueller investigation is the gold standard,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Tuesday during a 20-minute question-and-answer session outside the West Wing.
“And if the investigators on Capitol Hill want to continue, it will be seen as … partisan,” she said of House Democrats and the probes of all things Trump that the chairmen of several oversight committees say will not stand down.
Conway’s comment came a day after Trump himself sounded a different tone about Mueller. Asked if the special counsel conducted his investigation honorably, the president responded, “Yes, he did.”
The White House counselor told reporters she and the president used the terms “hoax” and “witch hunt” only referring to Mueller looking at whether Trump and his campaign associates might have coordinated with Mueller.
At the Capitol around midday, Trump implied that senior Obama White House officials were involved in what he has described as “illegal” actions that led to the Mueller investigation. “I don’t want to say that, but I think you know the answer,” he replied when asked at the Capitol if those actions went all the way to the West Wing in 2016 while Obama was still in office.
The president and his top spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, both spent time earlier Tuesday criticizing the news media for what they see as a collective effort to convince Americans that Trump and his 2016 team committed crimes.
“For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!” the president wrote in a tweet.
The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE. For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2019
How many times do the Democrats and their liberal media allies have to be proven embarrassingly wrong about @realDonaldTrump before they finally accept he’s been a great President? https://t.co/XRWTmg9d2O
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 26, 2019
But notably, Conway could not tell reporters which Justice Department officials, as her boss contended on Monday, carried out “treasonous” acts against him. She also forcefully repeated her calls for California Democrat and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to resign over his many statements that he saw clear evidence Trump and his campaign collaborated with Russians.