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.

Trump Russia

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.

“He was clearly frustrated,” one person said of Trump’s call with Corker earlier this month. The bill cleared Congress overwhelmingly last month and Trump grudgingly signed it on Aug. 2.

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.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    Did he promise Putin that the sanctions wouldn’t pass, or that he’d kill the bill on his own?

  2. Slugger says:

    Me thinks this lady doth protest too much.

  3. Argon says:

    I foresee… a rendez vous with a federal prosecutor.

    Rendez Vous

    I’ve been anticipating our little rendez vous
    Your fingers weaved through mine
    I admit it I may have been looking forward to it
    To drown in your intoxicating perfume
    As I purge myself of
    Oh stranger you know me well
    Will you take me with you
    to hell?

    © 2013 Bilal Kaci

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, his (clumsy) attempts to obstruct the investigations certainly implies he has something to hide. His effort to impede the sanctions bill implies that whatever it is is still active, and yuuge.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Obviously he has something to hide. There is literally no other explanation that makes sense. In fact, either Trump is covering up his crimes, or he is insane. There is a rational explanation: he’s a crook. And an explanation that presupposes madness.

    This has been obvious since before he was elected. No other explanation fits the facts. We don’t need Hercule Poirot for this.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    either Trump is covering up his crimes, or he is insane

    I don’t see that one rules out the other.

  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The most guilty acting innocent person, ever???

  8. Gustopher says:

    Perhaps this is all 10-dimensional chess, and he is doing his utmost to look guilty here so no one investigates the real crimes — the string of dead bodies across America, seven in every city where he held a rally!

    Also, a child prostitution ring run out of a NY Pizzaria. Remember, the Republicans are all about projection, and if they accuse a Democrat of some moral lapse, it’s probably because they are doing it themselves.

    And we don’t notice, because of Russia. Clever. Very, very clever.

  9. Franklin says:

    @Slugger: I gave you the downvote, only because this douchecanoe is no lady.

    /It’s an insult to ladies everywhere!
    //Thanks to Doug for teaching me a new term.

  10. Jen says:

    For a purported “nothingburger” he certainly seems to expend a considerable amount of energy on this topic.

    As others have noted above, there is no rational explanation for this other than guilt. Annoyance, I can see. But he is actively trying to quash this and obsesses about it.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    There isn’t much in the public eye about the structure of Trump’s real estate deals but he seems to get a substantial cut for merely selling the rights to his name. I mean, cmon, if you are building a decently looking moderate apartment tower in some US city, can there really be that many suckers that would pay 10-25% over the going rate because it has “Trump” on it. Actually, it would need ro be twice that, because the actual owners would have to get their cut.

    But the number of these developments with block purchases from shady former Soviets is staggering. They have need to launder money and paying a premium is the norm to do that. Since only an idiot would think “Trump” symbolizes quality*, maybe what it really signals is “we will not check your financials here. Cash is king. ”

    *Have you seen a Trump tie.?It’s like the nicest tie you can buy at JC Penny’s at Brooks Brothers prices.

  12. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Jen: Well as the old saying goes, “If the truth won’t set you free it’s because you don’t got no freedom comin’.”

  13. DrDaveT says:

    President Trump remains obsessed with the Russian investigation

    I suspect that, at the time, Ted Kaczynski was obsessed with the Unabomber investigation. This should not be surprising.

  14. teve tory says:

    Nathan McDermott‏Verified account @natemcdermott Aug 23

    Trump voters would prefer Jefferson Davis—a man who committed literal treason—as president over Barack Obama by 45% to 20% via @ppppolls

    Well, Jefferson Davis didn’t look very Kenyan, if you know what I mean….

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @teve tory: I suspect that said voters are picturing themselves at the top of the Confederate scrap-heap, rather that being slaves of a distinctly different color.

    I wonder how many of them would want to go back to Ye Olde Confederacy if they didn’t imagine themselves as one of the glitterati of those times? It’s one thing dressing up for a few hours playacting in shiny uniforms; it’s another thing if you had to actually live it.

    A.J.P. Taylor says in one of his essays something like “my grandfather was a weaver, so I do not have much doubt as to what social level a return to the past would produce.”

  16. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I suspect that said voters are picturing themselves at the top of the Confederate scrap-heap, rather that being slaves of a distinctly different color.

    We were discussing Holocaust denial the other day, and it’s important to realize that the Lost Cause is essentially the American South’s version of Holocaust denial–an attempt to deny the region’s greatest crime in order to whitewash their past. There’s nothing benign about the project of glamorizing such figures as Jefferson Davis and General Lee; just like with Holocaust denial, denying their racist past is the flip side of justifying their continued racism in the present.

  17. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    How RUDE of Trump to keep talking about the Russian matter when the narrative has started falling apart! Just when people start asking why Fusion GPS concocted the infamous “pee-pee dossier,” and who paid them, and just how much it cost the Russians to buy the Clintons and the Podestas.

    Isn’t when those questions arose that we suddenly had the Great National Statue Crisis, that critical matter of life and death for all of us?

  18. CSK says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Look, if the Russian business is just a big nothing, why is Trump obsessed with it? Why not ignore it and let it die of its own lack of momentum?

  19. Jen says:

    This WaPo piece about Pompeo at CIA is certainly interesting. The counterintel group looking into Russian interference reports directly to him.

  20. Walther says:

    @CSK: That’s a darned good question. After months and months of being smeared over it, why can’t Trump just ignore it and let it go away once it falls apart, just like all those who obsessed about it when they thought it would hurt him?

    Why can’t he, in the name of comity and civility and bipartisanship, put aside all the lies and hatred and falsehoods and insults? Why can’t he be the bigger man and let those who tried to destroy him just quietly regroup and prepare their next attack?

    If you think there’s even the slightest possibility Trump might do that, you’re quite possibly the biggest moron to comment on this site — and that’s an incredibly high standard.

    If there is one thing you can count on from Trump, it’s this: if you hit him, he will hit back. And he has no use for “dignity” or “proportionality” or “taking the high road” or “decency” or “turning the other cheek” or whatever you want to call “taking crap from anyone.”

    This whole Russia mess might end up with people in jail — but it’ll more likely be people like Clinton or the Podestas or the hired scum at Fusion GPS.

  21. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: Boring. Your trolls are normally better than this.

  22. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Well, then, let me try again:

    What does it mean that the Podesta Group just went back and “revised” its filings with the Justice Department to report that — oops! — it kinda sorta took a whole bunch of money from Putin cronies from 2012-2014 and kinda sorta forgot to report it, as they were kinda sorta legally obligated to do?


    It’s an old and dishonorable political tactic — accuse your opponent of doing exactly what you’re doing. That way, should they discover what you’ve done, it looks like they’re trying to play the tu quoque card and you can shrug off the (accurate) counter-accusations.

    You seem to think that just because your side opened this can of worms, you can demand it be closed when those worms start getting all over you. It don’t work that way, sport. Y’all demanded we DROP EVERYTHING and pay attention to Russia meddling in our political process, and now you don’t like it when we find the receipts for how they bought the Democratic Party establishment.

    And you don’t even have the decency to be ashamed at how little they had to pay. Your leaders sold out for chump change.

    On the other hand, look what Putin got for his investment. Just how influential are the people Putin bought now, anyway?

    But on the gripping hand, they are proving to be “honest” politicians — in the old definition of “one who, once bought, says bought.”

  23. CSK says:


    Do you have the brains to understand that trying to shut down an investigation makes one look guilty?