- President Donald Trump attacked The New York Times on Twitter Sunday, and said they “purposely wrote a false story.”
- The story Trump was referencing claimed people close to him said he was losing confidence in members of his legal team because of their handling of the Russia investigation.
- The story also said Trump met with former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment lawyer, and was considering hiring him.
- Trump’s team has wavered on how much to cooperate with the Mueller probe, but has recently been doing everything in its power to stop Trump from sitting down for an in-person interview.
President Donald Trump lashed out at one of his favourite media targets, The New York Times, in a pair of tweets on Sunday in which he pushed back against a story the Times published alleging he was dissatisfied with his legal team’s handling of the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Times story reported that Trump is in talks with Emmet T. Flood, a lawyer who worked on former President Bill Clinton’s team as he navigated the investigation that eventually led to his impeachment in 1998. It also mentioned several unnamed sources who claimed Trump was losing confidence in his lawyer Ty Cobb.
Trump said the story, written by Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, was “purposely” false.
“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow,” Trump tweeted. “They are doing a great job and … have shown conclusively that there was no Collusion with Russia..just excuse for losing.”
Although the president and his staff have expressed confidence in Cobb in the past, The Times reported that Cobb has recently clashed with one of Trump’s other top lawyers, Don McGahn, and Trump is apparently looking to change up his staff.
McGahn has frequently been a moderating influence on Trump, and reportedly persuaded him not to fire Mueller last year. But he has also butted heads with Cobb over how much Trump should be cooperating with the Mueller probe.
In the second tweet, Trump called out Haberman directly.
“The only Collusion was that done by the DNC, the Democrats and Crooked Hillary,” Trump said. “The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunky, knows nothing about me and is not given access.”
Haberman used the moment to further reinforce her story’s legitimacy and to analyse what Trump’s response meant for his legal team.
“Several people close to Trump confirmed our story,” she tweeted on Sunday. “Trump also met with Emmet Flood in the Oval last week for purpose of potentially hiring him. Our story was confirmed by other outlets.”
Haberman added that Trump’s tweets “raises [the] possibility Flood has turned him down.”
The Trump team’s history with Mueller
Trump’s lawyers have at times urged the president to cooperate with the Mueller investigation, but have also pursued a number of dubious strategies in order to keep him from testifying before the special counsel.
Among them is the argument that having him sit-face-to-face with Mueller would be a waste of time and would set a bad precedent for future presidents. In addition, Trump’s team has floated the possibility that they would agree to an interview only if Mueller agreed to conclude the probe within 60 days or limit his questioning to a narrow scope of inquiry.
Trump’s team’s efforts to stonewall Mueller have also raised the possibility of a Supreme Court battle and lengthy negotiations that could take months.
But legal experts like Robert Ray, who was one of the independent counsels in the Clinton investigation in the 1990s, said Trump will have to sit down with the investigators sooner or later.
“The sooner they make the president available to submit to an interview, the faster that Bob Mueller can get to the finish line and be over and done,” Ray told the Wall Street Journal last month.