Donald Trump speaks at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019 (Michael Conroy/AP)
Threatened by both the Trump-Russia investigation and the memory of John McCain, Donald Trump lashes out at both.
Trump used an appearance on the White House lawn and at an Ohio rally to launch his latest insults.
He assailed Special Counsel Robert Mueller with the claim that inquiry into illegal activity, including links between Trump’s camp and Russian officials, threatened “63 million” Americans who voted for him in 2016. (He did not comment if the investigation threatens the almost 66 million Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton.)
Trump added the curious remark that Mueller had no authority because the Special Counsel received no votes in the 2016 Presidential contest.
He continued with more personal attacks on Mueller — “highly conflicted” and a friend of James Comey, the FBI Director fired by Trump in May 2017 in an attempt to halt the Russia inquiry — and on former and current FBI officials.
“Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump shouted. He said that he would welcome a public report, even though the White House is trying to block any release before they vet Mueller’s findings, but maintained that it would be rigged. An “honest” report, he insisted, would find Democrats had colluded with Russia.
While the comments were nonsensical and rambling, they are part of a tactical campaign to discredit the Mueller report before it appears. A CNN poll earlier this week showed that it is having some effect: while almost 90% of those surveyed believe the findings should be public, 51% agreed with Trump that it is a “witch hunt”.
It was harder to discern a tactical reason for the week-long Trump assault on John McCain, the US Senator and Navy aviator who died last August from brain cancer.
Speaking at a tank plant in Ohio yesterday, Trump — who claimed bone spurs in his feet to avoid service in Vietnam, while McCain was a POW for 5 1/2 years — devoted most of his statement to the late Senator, “I’ve never liked him much. Hasn’t been for me.”
Trump then displayed the catalyst for his anger: McCain, concerned about the revelations in a Trump-Russia dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, gave the memoranda to media outlets in late 2016.
Linking the assault on the late Senator with his effort to undermine Mueller, Trump told the crowd, “John McCain received a fake and phony dossier. Did you hear about the dossier? It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton.”
Trump said that McCain should have given him — the subject of the dossier’s portrayal of illegal activity and compromise of US national security — the dossier rather than turning it over to the FBI.
Again repeating his lines since 2017, Trump added his anger that McCain had not supported the dismantling of ObamaCare. Then he issued a lie, “When I had my dispute with him, I had such incredible support from the vets and from the military.”
Trump concluded his rant with another falsehood — that he arranged McCain’s State funeral — and his grievance that the Senator’s family did not express gratitude.
I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted — which, as President, I had to approve. I don’t care about this. I didn’t get “thank you”. That’s okay.
In fact, Trump tried to order Government buildings to stop flying US flags at half-mast, an effort blocked by his staff.