Donald Trump Still Has Russia On His Brain, And He’s Still Trying To Limit Investigations
President Trump remains obsessed with the Russian investigation and continues to try to shut it down.
For the most part, the ongoing investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials has taken a back seat to other matter over the past two months or so. Instead of the almost daily headlines we were seeing about the matter starting in early May when Trump fired F.B.I. Director James Comey, the news has been filled with matters such as rising tension in North Korea, the failed efforts in the Senate to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, and of course the events in Charlottesville and the President response to those events that gave succor to the violent forces on the alt-right who gathered there two weeks ago. The last major piece of Russia-related news that dropped came on August 15th, when it was reported that a top Trump aide had attempted to set up That doesn’t mean the investigation hasn’t been proceeding forward, of course. Even though Congress has been in recess since the end of July, the committees in both the Senate and the House have been conducting their investigations and interviewing potential witnesses and, of course, the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller continues moving forward at its own pace.
Notwithstanding the fact that it hasn’t been in the news, though, a new report from Politico shows that President Trump remains obsessed with the issue of Russia and that he’s still seeking ways to stop or limit the ongoing investigations:
President Donald Trump privately vented his frustration over Russia-related matters with at least two other Republican senators this month, according to people familiar with the conversations — in addition to the president’s public admonishments of Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Trump expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that it wasn’t good policy, according to three people familiar with the call. Trump argued that the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would damage his presidency. Corker was unrelenting, these people said, and told Trump the bill was going to pass both houses with bipartisan support.
Trump dialed up Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Aug. 7, two days before a blunt call with the Senate majority leader that spilled over into a public feud. Tillis is working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating the president’s Russia connections, from any attempt by Trump to fire him.
The Mueller bill came up during the Tillis-Trump conversation, according to a source briefed on the call — the latest signal of the president’s impatience with GOP senators’ increasing declarations of independence from his White House. Trump was unhappy with the legislation and didn’t want it to pass, one person familiar with the call said.
A Tillis spokesman confirmed the date of the senator’s call with the president and later described the call as “cordial,” saying other issues were discussed. A Corker spokeswoman described the late July conversation as a “productive conversation about the congressional review portion of the Russia sanctions bill.”
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said, “We do not comment on private conversations the president has with members of Congress. We are committed to working together on tax relief, border security, strengthening the military, and other important issues.” A separate statement from the White House press secretary Wednesday said that Trump and McConnell “will hold previously scheduled meetings following the August recess to discuss these critical items with members of the congressional leadership and the president’s Cabinet. White House and leadership staff are coordinating regarding the details of those meetings.”
The earlier, private calls offer more evidence of Trump’s uneasy relationship with congressional Republicans. Trump has angered McConnell with a damning critique of the Kentucky Republican’s performance on repealing Obamacare and threats to try to take out Flake (R-Ariz.) — a vocal Trump critic — in a Republican primary next year.
Trump’s chewing out of GOP senators, according to people briefed on the calls, reflected the president’s frustration that fellow Republicans would make moves that could damage him, particularly on an investigation that he detests. Trump also complained about the Russian sanctions measure in a call with McConnell earlier this month that devolved into shouting. The New York Times first reported that Trump discussed the Russia probe with McConnell.
“It seems he is just always focused on Russia,” one senior GOP aide said.
These reports come just one day after it was reported that the President had called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this month and sought to get him to somehow limit or scale back the ongoing investigations by the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into the Russia matter. These investigations have gotten increasingly close to the President himself, with committee members and staff talking to people such as Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner over the past month or so. When McConnell declined to intervene in the investigations, Trump apparently became angry and frustrated. In no small part, this is what has led to increased tension between the two Republicans and is apparently part of the cause for Trump’s attacks on McConnell on Twitter in recent weeks. Now we learn that Trump’s Russia obsession wasn’t just limited to his conversations with McConnell and that he has sought to both limit the investigation and to block the legislation that ended up increasing sanctions on Russia which he ultimately signed into law and legislation that would make it more difficult for him to fire Robert Mueller or limit his investigation into Russian interference, the Trump campaign, and, potentially Trump’s personal and business finances.
What all of this demonstrates, of course, is that Donald Trump remains as obsessed with the Russia investigation as he always has been and continues to engage in efforts behind the scenes to either shut it down or make sure it doesn’t any closer to him than it already is today. This has been the case, of course, virtually from the beginning of Trump’s Presidency. The day after former National Security Advisor Lt. General Michael Flynn was dismissed due to the fact that he had lied about meetings with the Russian Ambassador to the United States and failed to disclose those meetings to either the Trump transition team or the White House, the President was asking the Director of the F.B.I. to give Flynn ‘a break’ and pull back on the ongoing investigation into that matter. Later, after Comey was fired just days after confirming to a Senate committee that the Bureau was, in fact, investigating both Russian interference in the campaign and potential ties between Russian officials and people close to Trump, Trump was confirming that he fired Comey because of that ongoing investigation. Since then, Trump has mentioned the Russia investigation, which he of course always refers to as “Fake News”, many times on his Twitter feed in yet another demonstration that he remains obsessed with the matter notwithstanding the fact that it hasn’t been in the headlines lately. T
The question, of course, is why this is the case. The implication, of course, is that there’s something there that Trump wants to hide. Some have suggested that this could all be tied to his business affairs and the rumors that Trump found himself relying on Russian investors and financial sources for loans due to the bankruptcies that he went through in the 90s and the fact that they made American and Western banks reluctant to lend to him. While this has never been confirmed, it would certainly explain both his noticeable obsequiousness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and the fact that he has been so insistent about trying to shut down the Russia investigation. Such actions, of course, only increase the level of suspicion that surrounds Trump, his campaign, and his White House, and as long as Trump continues to try to limit an investigation that he contends is “Fake News,” the more likely it is that the investigations are going to continue and expand.