Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

Donald Trump rages, while opponents circle over impeachment

A day after Mueller report was released, the US president's 'game over' boast rings hollow

Elizabeth Warren has become the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to make a full-throated call for the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report. AP
Elizabeth Warren has become the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to make a full-throated call for the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report. AP

It took a day to declare that his mood over the Mueller report had changed but an unfolding list of questions has left Donald Trump facing more political trouble.

On Friday, the US president used Twitter to disparage parts of the report, saying sections had been constructed to make him look bad while others looked good.

He said the report was written by “Haters” and was filled with statements that “are fabricated and totally untrue”.

But the early morning tweets appeared to be a reluctant concession that his “Game Over” declaration made 24 hours earlier, when a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was published, had been premature.

Instead, attention moved to 10 instances identified during the investigation where Mr Trump appeared to direct attempts to obstruct justice, including asking for Mr Mueller to be sacked.

Those ultimately failed because staffers would not carry out his orders. Some refused and others quit.

The 10 matters led Mr Mueller to conclude that while he thought a criminal prosecution of a sitting US president was not possible, he could not exonerate Mr Trump, saying Congress had the necessary authority to examine his conduct.

Mr Trump, however, stuck to his script that he had been vindicated and appeared to suggest he would take revenge.

Democratic senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Friday cited Mr Mueller’s report as grounds for impeachment and said it was time to put aside party differences on Capitol Hill by impeaching the president for obstructing the special counsel’s investigation.

Democratic senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Friday cited Mr Mueller’s report as grounds for impeachment and said it was time to put aside party differences on Capitol Hill by impeaching the president for obstructing the special counsel’s investigation.

Her call came several hours after House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler issued a subpoena to obtain the full report into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, saying he cannot accept a redacted version that “leaves most of Congress in the dark".

“The redactions appear to be significant. We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the special counsel developed to make this case,” Mr Nadler said.

The revelation in Mr Mueller’s report that he has referred evidence from 12 unidentified cases to law enforcement agencies for consideration of prosecution means the Mueller investigation’s reach is not over.

A possible indication of what these cases relate to are the redactions in Mr Mueller’s report. The largest amount of blacked-out information relates to Moscow’s interference activities – hacking by the GRU intelligence agency and social media manipulation by the Internet Research Agency, a St ­Petersburg-based troll farm – and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Criticism of Mr Trump was not confined to Democrats.

Mitt Romney, a Republican senator and former presidential candidate, said: “I am sickened by the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president.

“I am also appalled that fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia, including information that had been illegally obtained, that none of them acted to inform law enforcement and that the campaign chairman [Paul Manafort] was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.”

Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary to former president George W Bush, said in an appearance on Fox News that he didn’t understand why Mr Trump decided to send his tweets lashing out at former aides.

“If I were the president, I would have basically declared victory with the Mueller report and moved beyond it,” he said.

Still, he said he hoped the White House had learnt some lessons. “Asking your staff to lie and engaging in some of the activities that the Mueller report stated the president engaged in is too close to obstruction,” Mr Fleischer said.

Mr Trump headed to his West Palm Beach golf club in Florida on Friday to play golf with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh “and a couple friends”, according to the White House.

The president was set to spend the weekend there with family, friends and paying members of his private Mar-a-Lago club, also in Florida.

Updated: April 20, 2019 10:02 PM

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