Trump takes post-Mueller victory lap to Hill, but ‘he didn’t really dwell on it’

Senators say POTUS mostly focused on trade as administration pivots to health care fight

President Donald Trump alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., (left) and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., talks to the media about Robert S. Mueller III’s report upon arriving for the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
President Donald Trump alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., (left) and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., talks to the media about Robert S. Mueller III’s report upon arriving for the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 26, 2019 at 3:36pm

President Donald Trump’s post-Mueller victory lap included a Tuesday strategy session with Senate Republicans, but several members said Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III finding no criminal conspiracy with Russia in 2016 was not the focus of his visit.

“He didn’t really dwell on it. He just simply made it very clear that he felt really good about the fact that their report came out and it said exactly what he had been saying all along that there was, you know, no collusion between him and the Russian government,” Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said.

The president and a number of senators were focused on trade policy, both the ongoing negotiations with China and the path forward for the USMCA.

“He just wants us to know that he’s very serious about getting the job done with regard to trade with China,” Rounds said. “At the same time, he’s not going to accept a deal if it’s not a really good deal.”

[Mueller report has gone from ‘witch hunt’ to ‘gold standard’ at White House]

Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said he asked the president if he thought the trade agreement with China would help improve the U.S. manufacturing sector.

“Jobs across the board. Midwest, South. We’ve lost millions of jobs,” the Alabama Republican said. “If we could get a good trade agreement, with certainty, it should help us, and I think that was his answer.”

“I think it plays well for his base,” said Shelby, who stressed that he was not thinking about a specific Alabama industry when he asked the question.

The president headed to the Capitol for a strategy session with the Senate GOP caucus as he enters a new phase of his turbulent presidency after Mueller failed to establish his 2016 campaign collaborated with Russians but did not exonerate him — despite his claims — on obstruction of justice.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell emerged from the meeting to call it “enjoyable,” saying of Trump: “I think it’s safe to say he’s in a very good mood, for all the obvious reasons.” The president told reporters, from the other side of a long Capitol hallway, that the meeting was “very good,” appearing to say he hoped details would make it into the media.

Trump’s mood appeared upbeat as he headed into the meeting, telling reporters he doubts Democrats, post-Mueller, are still seriously thinking about impeachment proceedings. He also again sounded a much different tone about an investigation he long has called a “hoax.”

“The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better,” Trump said. “It said no collusion, no obstruction. It could not be better.”

A few hours before Trump’s motorcade sped along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president is ready, with the Mueller probe mostly behind him, to work with Democrats.

[A debate over Nazis and socialism broke out in House Judiciary]

“Where are they?” she asked of the opposition party, saying the president is “open” to meeting with Democrats.

His meeting with GOP senators came a day after his administration issued a court filing that argues the entire 2010 health law should be overturned — even though Republicans have not offered anything new to replace it. The filing could leave even more Americans without health care, with the Trump administration taking a big political risk just as the president’s 2020 re-election campaign revs up.

She touted Trump’s previous policy proposals for “short-term limited duration plans or associated health plans” could be potential replacements.

What’s more, Conway signaled the White House is up for both a legislative and re-election campaign fight with the Democrats’ far-left wing.

“We’re not gonna allow the hard left … in the Congress to have their way on Medicare-for-all. We’re not going to lose the fight or government-run health care, which treats us all the same [with] one-size-fits-all healthcare for everybody — that’s not American,” Conway said.

“That’s one of the most intimate aspects of your life,” she added. “This president believes that patients should be better protected, have more choices, higher quality — and they don’t now.”

Watch: A debate over Nazis and socialism broke out in House Judiciary

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