Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him – The New York Times

So they began to investigate the investigators. Mr. Trump and his lawyers enthusiastically encouraged the strategy, which, according to some polls, convinced many Americans that the country’s law enforcement apparatus was determined to bring down the president.

Within days of their conversation, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Jordan drafted a letter to Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein, the first call for the appointment of a second special counsel to essentially reinvestigate Hillary Clinton for her handling of her emails while secretary of state — the case had ended in the summer of 2016 — as well as the origins of the F.B.I.’s investigation of Mr. Flynn and other Trump associates.

The letter itself, with the signatures of only 20 House Republicans, gained little traction at first. But an important shift was underway: At a time when Mr. Trump’s lawyers were urging him to cooperate with Mr. Mueller and tone down his Twitter feed, the president’s fiercest allies in Congress and the conservative media were busy trying to flip the script on the federal law enforcement agencies and officials who began the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Jordan began huddling with like-minded Republicans, sometimes including Representative Mark Meadows, a press-savvy North Carolinian close to Mr. Trump, and Representative Devin Nunes of California, the head of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Nunes, the product of a dairy farming family in California’s Central Valley, had already emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s strongest allies in Congress. He worked closely with Mr. Flynn during the Trump transition after the 2016 election, and he had a history of battling the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, which he sometimes accused of coloring their analysis for partisan reasons. In the spring of 2017, he sought to bolster Mr. Trump’s false claim that President Barack Obama had ordered an illegal wiretap on Trump Tower.

Using Congress’s oversight powers, the Republican lawmakers succeeding in doing what Mr. Trump could not realistically do on his own: forcing into the open some of the government’s most sensitive investigative files — including secret wiretaps and the existence of an F.B.I. informant — which were part of the Russia inquiry. House Republicans opened investigations into the F.B.I.’s handling of the Clinton email case and a debunked Obama-era uranium deal indirectly linked to Mrs. Clinton. The lawmakers got a big assist from the Justice Department, which gave them private text messages recovered from two senior F.B.I. officials who had been on the Russia case. The officials — Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — repeatedly criticized Mr. Trump in their texts, which were featured in a loop on Fox News and became a centerpiece of an evolving and powerful conservative narrative about a cabal inside the F.B.I. and Justice Department to take down Mr. Trump.

The president cheered the lawmakers on Twitter, in interviews and in private, urging Mr. Gaetz on Air Force One in December 2017 and in subsequent phone calls to keep up the House Republicans’ oversight work. He was hoping for fair treatment from Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump told Mr. Gaetz in one of the calls just after the congressman appeared on Fox News, but that did not preclude him from encouraging his allies’ scrutiny of the investigation.

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