WASHINGTON — President Trump on Saturday unleashed an extended assault on the F.B.I. and the special counsel’s investigation, knitting together a comprehensive alternative story in which he had been framed by disgraced “losers” at the bureau’s highest levels.
In a two-hour span starting at 7 a.m., the president made a series of false claims on Twitter about his adversaries and the events surrounding the inquiry. He was responding to a report in The New York Times that, after he fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director in 2017, the bureau began investigating whether the president had acted on behalf of Russia.
In his tweets,
- the president accused Hillary Clinton, without evidence, of breaking the law by lying to the F.B.I. He claimed that
- Mr. Comey was corrupt and best friends with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
- He said Mr. Mueller was employing a team of Democrats — another misleading assertion — bent on taking him down.
Individually, the president’s claims were familiar. But as the special counsel’s inquiry edges ever closer to him, Democrats vow a blizzard of investigations of their own and the government shutdown reaches record lengths, Mr. Trump compiled all the threads of the conspiracy theory he has pushed for many months in an effort to discredit the investigation.
Mr. Trump accused the F.B.I. of opening “for no reason” and “with no proof” an investigation in 2017 into whether he had been working against American interests on behalf of Russia, painting his own actions toward Russia as actually “FAR tougher” than those of his predecessors.
The Times article, published Friday evening, reported that law enforcement officials became so alarmed by Mr. Trump’s behavior surrounding his firing of Mr. Comey that they took the explosive step of opening a counterintelligence investigation against him.
Naming several of the bureau’s now-departed top officials, including Mr. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, Mr. Trump said the F.B.I. had “tried to do a number on your President,” accusing the “losers” of essentially fabricating a case. “Part of the Witch Hunt,” he wrote — referring dismissively to the investigation now being overseen by Mr. Mueller.
At the time he was fired in May 2017, Mr. Comey had been leading the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the officials believed that his removal, in hindering the inquiry, posed a possible threat to national security. Their decision to open the case was informed, in part, by two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the firing to the Russia investigation.
The inquiry they opened had two aspects, including both the newly disclosed counterintelligence element and a criminal element that has long been publicly known: whether the firing constituted obstruction of justice.
When Mr. Mueller was appointed days later, he took over the joint inquiry as part of his larger investigation of Russia’s action in 2016 and whether anyone on the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow. It is not clear whether he is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and no public evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump himself secretly conspired with the Russian government or took directions from it.
Mr. Trump indicated on Saturday that he had not known of the existence of the counterintelligence investigation before the Times article, and he did not dispute the newspaper’s reporting.
But he made clear that he viewed any such inquiry as illegitimate from the start. He presented it, without evidence, as part of a vast, yearslong conspiracy to undo his presidency.
In the tweets, Mr. Trump defended his decision to fire Mr. Comey — “a total sleaze!” — at length, accusing the former director of overseeing a “rigged & botched” investigation of Mrs. Clinton, and leading the agency into “complete turmoil.” Democrats and Republicans alike wanted Mr. Comey removed, he said.
“My firing of James Comey was a great day for America,” Mr. Trump wrote. “He was a Crooked Cop.”
A question running alongside Donald Trump’s political career is whether he will ever pay a price for his verbal insults.
It was widely thought Mr. Trump might have damaged himself fatally when in mid-2015 he said of John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Even now, Mr. Trump’s verbal smackdowns come so fast and furious that it’s hard to keep up. As far back as I can remember—about a week or so—objects of Mr. Trump’s ire have included
- the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the
- special counsel who is investigating him, and
- the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
- The attacks on “fake news” roll in and out like the weather.
Mr. Trump did the news conference primarily to offer his analysis of the midterm election results, which the president described as “very close to complete victory.”
.. It eventually became clear that what Mr. Trump meant by close to complete victory was the results in races with candidates for whom he personally campaigned—such as Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Indiana—rather than the election outcome for Republicans more generally.
.. “And Barbara Comstock was another one. I mean, I think she could have won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace. For that, I don’t blame her. But she lost. Substantially lost. Peter Roskam didn’t want the embrace. Erik Paulsen didn’t want the embrace.”
This is unprecedented. Politics ain’t beanbag, but no president has ever ridiculed the losing members of his own party. No one in politics mocks a defeated election opponent.
.. This moment could cost Mr. Trump in the next two years. The Republicans Mr. Trump hung out to dry in that news conference have friends in Congress and across Washington, and it’s not likely they are going to forget this.
.. Every U.S. presidency at some point comes under intense political pressure. Some break, like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. But until then, all could count for their survival on the political and personal loyalty of members of their party or the people who worked for them.
Who with political power that matters will Donald Trump call on when his darkest hour arrives? Many will lift a finger, but how high?
Mr. Trump has proven his resiliency. But that news conference was an odd moment, kicking fallen Republicans while associating himself with the tender mercies of Nancy Pelosi. Washington, he may find, can quickly become a lonely place.
I like Chris Oleary’s answer best. I don’t think I can top that, but there are few behavioral points I would like to point out. I myself am an independent. I have voted both Republican and Democrat in the past. I am, however, anti-Trump. I disagree with almost all of his policies, but that isn’t why. It is because of his behavioral patterns:
ANTECEDANT: A popular comedian or actor goes on record making a joke about the president
BEHAVIOR: Trump publically insults that person in a way that is opinion based and can’t be proven
CONSEQUENCE: Trump gets a ton of attention in the media; behavior is reinforced.
A: Policies of a non-democratic leader come into question
B: Trump declines to weigh in or makes a public suggestion that if the US makes money off those actions then they will not be condemned
C: Trump gets more support by non-democratic leaders and more media attention. Behavior is reinforced.
A: Migrants walk toward the US for whatever reason
B: Trump blames it on democrats
C: Trump gets more media attention and validation from his base. Behavior is reinforced.
A: Racial issues come to light that incite violence in the US
B: Trump calls himself a nationalist and makes comments about home countries of minorities
C: Trump gets more attention from the right wing extremists. Behavior is reinforced.
These behaviors are not democratic or republican. They do not serve republican ideals. There are many responses he could come up with that further the goals of the Republican party. These behaviors are designed for self gratification only.
You may be saying- ok, what’s the point? The point is that in order for Trump to continue to receive the attention that he seeks, he has to continue to publically react to events that are highly non-democratic in a way that invokes an extreme reaction from the public. As the presidency goes on, these behaviors will become more and more extreme. He may have to create situations himself just so he can react to them.
At some point he will grow bored of validation from his base and require a new set of situations that will bring about the reinforcing consequence of extreme attention. Eventually, he will have to one up himself every time he interacts with the public.
Because his need for attention greatly out ways his ability to create stability, he is a ticking time bomb. His suppors think that he is a loyalist. He is not. He will grow tired of their praise and require more attention from the American people and the world. When that time comes he will put things like civil liberties, amendments, laws and even his own base supporters aside in order to get that reinforcement.
No one is curbing his behavior. Since he is the most powerful man in the world, maybe no one can. It serves you now, but eventually it won’t. When the rights of hard working Americans like you start to be an afterthought for Trump, don’t say no one told you so. He goes where the attention and the deal is. Believe me, if he decides his base is not that, he will utterly betray you AND the party. THIS is not a man you should trust. He wants to be on the loudest and most victorious team. Period.
Mr. Trump’s representatives have denied that he had a sexual encounter with Ms. Clifford and that he had any involvement in the payment.
Mr. Trump has told advisers for months he wanted to publicly push back on Ms. Clifford’s allegations, which in the past year have dominated headlines on cable networks the president closely monitors, according to people familiar with the conversations. His advisers have told him they had seen no signs that the allegations were hurting him with voters and have warned him that it would look inappropriate for the president to engage in a public spat with a former porn star.
.. Before issuing the tweet Tuesday, Mr. Trump had taken to calling Ms. Clifford “Horse face” in private, according to a person familiar with the matter. His representatives have denied that he had an affair with her.
.. Mr. Trump has previously attacked women for their looks. In an interview with Rolling Stone during the 2016 campaign, he said of Republican primary opponent Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”
He also attacked a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, telling supporters at a rally in Florida in October 2016: “Take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. And you tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”