A pro-Trump super PAC will begin running ads attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The ad's chief complaint echoes Trump's criticism that Mueller's team has ties to Democrats, because some of the lawyers have given campaign contributions to the party. Trump has also complained of the relationship between fired FBI Director James B. Comey and Mueller, who was once his boss.
Trump repeated those complaints last week:
“Well, he is very very good friends with (former FBI Director James) Comey, which is very bothersome," the President said in a Fox News clip that aired Thursday. "We're going to have to see."
Robert Mueller is a registered Republican and was appointed FBI director by George W. Bush. That hasn’t stopped Trump or his surrogates from the pretext that Mueller is, somehow, a Democratic plant.
The ad, called "Witch Hunt," features conservative favorite Tomi Lahren reflecting Trump's own language to complain about the probe. The more than $400,000 ad buy is expected to start running Sunday.
"Only in Washington could a rigged game like this be called independent," Lahren says, using air quotes in the ad to emphasize her point. She is now a senior advisor to Great America Alliance, which backs Trump.
Great America Alliance, the group behind the Mueller attack ad, previously ran ads attacking former FBI Director James Comey in advance of his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was the largest pro-Trump super PAC in the 2016 election.
The rising effort to denigrate the investigation and demean Mueller has increased speculation that Trump will move to end the investigation in some way. Either by ordering Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire the Special Counsel he appointed, or by altering the regulations to make Mueller’s task impossible. In recent tweets, Trump has referred to Mueller and his team as “Very bad and conflicted people.” He has repeatedly used the “witch hunt” label for the investigation.
All of which seems like building the base for shutting down Mueller. Trump has made repeated claims that the investigation has already gone on for too long. That it has cost too much. That it has produced no evidence. All despite the fact that the investigation is still staffed by only a handful of people and has gone on for only a fraction of the time given investigations like Whitewater, Iran-Contra, or Watergate. At this point, the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia has been smaller and gone on for a shorter period of time than the investigation of firings in the White House travel office under Bill Clinton, that became known as “travelgate.”
At Sean Spicer’s increasingly rare appearance in front of the media on Friday, he indicated that Donald Trump has “no intention” of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But Spicer’s track record in predicting Trump’s actions isn’t significantly better than a coin flip.
Though Mueller entered the investigation to near universal praise, Trump and his surrogates soon launched into the process of denigrating both the investigation and the investigator. The fact that some of the people Mueller has hired donated to Democratic campaigns has been used to call into question the whole team. Less than a week after Mueller’s appointment, Trump said that the existence of the Special Counsel “hurts our country” and was standing in the way of progress on issues.
According to White House staff, Trump has developed an obsession with Mueller, and blames Rosenstein for the ongoing investigation. Even though Trump admitted that he intended to fire former FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation, and Rod Rosenstein was ordered to provide justification for Comey’s firing after Trump had already come to that decision, Trump now treats the whole situation as if it were Rosenstein’s fault.
It’s likely that, should Trump order Rosenstein to fire Mueller, the deputy AG would refuse. But considering Trump’s feeling about both men, he likely would not hesitate to fire Rosenstein as well if that’s what was needed.