A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

As Mueller investigation nears end, Trump sharpens his attacks

Why We Wrote This

Believing offense is the best defense, the president is launching charges of media bias and a ‘deep state’ conspiracy in advance of whatever may emerge from the special counsel’s investigation.

Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for the American Farm Bureau Federation's 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans, on Jan. 14, 2019, in Washington.

“They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
President Trump on Thursday tweeted this angry charge against The New York Times. It appears to be the first time he has singled out an individual media organization, by name, for such a serious accusation.
What made the president mad? Likely the paper’s lead story – a lengthy account of Mr. Trump’s unprecedented public attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller and other federal law enforcement investigations into his campaign and administration, and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It may also reflect the fact that Mr. Mueller’s Russia probe could be close to an inflection point. On Friday, prosecutors are scheduled to file a new sentencing memo for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of financial crimes related to his work in Ukraine. In the past, Mueller’s team has used such documents to make public details of their findings – and Mr. Manafort was involved in many of the activities that are main threads of the Russia probe.
NBC’s Pete Williams has reported that a Mueller “final report” could come as early as next week.
Trump believes fervently that offense is the best defense, particularly when it comes to legal troubles. The Times story, which is largely a narrative recap of events, counts more than 1,100 times Trump has publicly attacked the Russia investigation.
The president and his supporters see charges of bias and bad faith as their best weapon to beat back a “deep state” assault that threatens to consume the Trump presidency. In this regard they plan to highlight recent revelations by former FBI official Andrew McCabe that top Justice officials talked about invoking the 25th  Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Mr. McCabe didn’t actually put the 25th  Amendment tidbit in his new book, “The Threat.” It would have been distracting and “inflammatory,” he told The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand. In news interviews, he has portrayed it as an offhand discussion during the internal chaos that followed the firing of ex-FBI Director James Comey.
“It was absolutely crazy. The world was upside down,” he told Ms. Bertrand.
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