President Donald Trump is dipping into his playbook of distraction and denial, but even his skills at weaving alternative narratives cannot disguise the growing threat he faces from special counsel Robert Mueller.
On Saturday, Trump announced the exit of chief of staff John Kelly, dismissed new revelations from the Russia probe, slapped familiar foes and promoted violent demonstrations challenging his erstwhile friend, French President Emmanuel Macron.
But while he can spin new stories for the media to chase, the President seems powerless to stop Mueller’s relentless focus on his own conduct in the 2016 campaign and ever since.
A week of legal filings related to the Russia investigation has only increased the President’s vulnerability and raised new questions about whether his campaign cooperated with a Russian election meddling effort.
The more Mueller’s work seems to uncover contacts with Russians by people inside Trump’s orbit and evidence that they lied about what happened, the more the President argues that he is being vindicated and cleared.
“We’re very happy with what we’re reading because there was no collusion whatsoever,” Trump told reporters before heading to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.
Trump tweeted earlier Saturday that it was “time for the Witch Hunt to END” and quoted Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, saying “this is collusion illusion” and “there is nothing impeachable here.”·
The President has a long record of disregading evidence that contradicts his preferred version of events. And Trump has mounted a long campaign to discredit the special counsel, apparently seeking to devalue any eventual conclusions that are critical of his conduct.
But the deepening record of the Mueller investigation is raising the possibility that Trump’s talent in creating alternative realities is facing its stiffest test yet.
New and damaging information for the White House comes at a time when every move by Mueller appears to bring his investigation deeper into the White House and Trump’s inner circle, and shows it has expanded well beyond what may or may not have happened in the 2016 campaign.