Trump allies eager for payback after Mueller’s report

The president will use the special prosecutor's reported findings "like a political bludgeon," one supporter said.

President Donald Trump arrives on Marine One, on the South Lawn of the White House, on Sunday, March 24, 2019.  (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump arrives on Marine One, on the South Lawn of the White House, on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump took a victory lap after special counsel Robert Mueller submitted the findings of his investigation to the Justice Department, reportedly concluding that neither Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia to affect the 2016 election.F

“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

And the president suggested that he could have a long memory in dealing with those who had crossed him or had accused him of wrongdoing during the nearly two-year-long Mueller probe.

After meeting Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday Trump told reporters that “there are a lot of people out there who have done some very, very evil things… I would say treasonous things against our country.”


Those remarks echoed comments the president made as he boarded Air Force One on Sunday as he returned to Washington following a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump described the Mueller investigation as an “illegal takedown that failed,” and said he hoped “somebody is going to be looking at the other side.”

Trump’s remarks encapsulate his supporters’ reaction to the Mueller report. Reaction among Trump supporters went from relief over the findings to a desire to inflict payback against those — namely Democrats and members of the media — who had spent the past two years assuming Mueller would definitively prove collusion between the president and the Kremlin.

“You’re going to see him [Trump] use this as a political bludgeon,” Cliff Sims, a former Trump aide, told CNN.

“In terms of political retribution I think the main thing is going to be using this in the election in 2020 and on the campaign” against Democrats, Sims said.

The Trump reelection campaign on Sunday made a similar point, declaring that the Mueller report had shown that Democrats “lied to the American people continually.”

Republican lawmakers were quick to praise Trump, although a few made at least a passing attempt to stay above the fray.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted that while Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the report vindicated Trump, work was needed to ensure that Russia and other bad actors couldn’t interfere in the 2020 election.


Graham rather ominously tweeted “see you soon” — hinting at a possible appearance before the Judiciary Committee, the panel he chairs.

Graham’s office later explained that the tweet referred to a letter the senator once sent to Barr concerning a warrant obtained by the FBI on former Trump adviser Carter Page.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, Monday demanded an apology from Democrats who had pushed the investigation.

“You would think they’d have the decency to say ‘I was wrong, I made a mistake'” the former New York mayor told Fox & Friends. “Even if they want to move on now to this other stuff, they’re going to look at and embarrass themselves, at least stop and say ‘I was wrong.'”


For their parts, Democrats emphasized that the collusion case was not yet closed, and that it was necessary to release the full Mueller report, given the number of unanswered questions and investigations still circling around the Trump administration — including one in the Southern District of New York involving the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

So far, everything Congress members and the public know about the report came from a short summary written by William Barr. Barr wrote that Mueller did not find evidence that Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russia.

While Mueller left open the question of whether the president attempted to obstruct justice, the attorney general and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided there was insufficient evidence to suggest that he did.

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” House Speaker  Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement Sunday night.

“The fact that special counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”

This post has been updated with additional comments from President Trump and Sen. Lindsay Graham.