President Donald Trump claimed victory and cast himself as exonerated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe at a veterans’ event at the White House on Thursday, speaking within minutes of Mueller’s full report posting online.
As Washington officials and people around the world scoured the roughly 400-page document, Trump, projecting a breezy business-as-usual demeanor, told an East Room crowd that was having a “good day” because the report showed “no collusion” and “no obstruction,” two claims he has made for months.
In very brief remarks about the Russia scandal before he moved onto the subject at hand, an event honoring “wounded warrior” veterans, Trump turned the spotlight back on his accusers and investigators.
“We do have to get to the bottom of things,” Trump told the crowd to cheers. “This should never happen to another president again — this hoax.”
The president arrived 30 minutes late to the event, so that his arrival ended up coinciding with the release of the special counsel’s report. Even as he spoke, countless people were downloading and scouring the Justice Department document, some two years in the making, which is packed with evidence of behavior by Trump and his associates that Mueller did not conclude was clearly criminal but are already drawing howls of outrage from Democrats.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the president’s tardiness, or inquiries about whether he’d watched Attorney General Bill Barr’s press conference about the report before its release, which was widely panned by Democrats as being overly generous to the president.
Within minutes of Barr wrapping up his press conference and before he appeared at the White House, Trump boastfully claimed victory, tweeting an image of himself surrounded by smoke with the words, “No Obstruction. No Collusion. For the haters and the radical left Democrats…GAME OVER,” with a design that recalls the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” Trump subsequently pinned the tweet to the top of his Twitter timeline.
Earlier Thursday, Trump had promoted Barr’s press conference, instructing his followers to watch it on Fox News or the pro-Trump One America News Network. “No Collusion – No Obstruction!” he added in another tweet, linking to a video celebrating Mueller’s finding that his campaign did not collude with Russia.
The release of the full report had been a subject of anxiety in the West Wing in recent weeks, but the president’s fears might have been eased this week when lawyers from the White House and Trump’s personal legal team were given a chance to read the redacted report. Barr told reporters Thursday that the White House did not request any additional redactions of the report.
Still, the substance of the report could prove damaging for people in Trump’s orbit, including current and former Trump officials worried they could face the president’s wrath for disclosing intimate details of campaign and White House activities.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine