State of play

The Guardian says Mueller has been amazingly speedy.

Anne Milgram, a law professor at New York University and a former prosecutor and attorney general of New Jersey, said Mueller and his 17 lawyers had done “a terrific job”.

“Months have gone by – people think it’s a long time – it is not in criminal justice,” she said. “He has moved incredibly quickly, got a lot of cooperation agreements, charges, done an extraordinary job of running down Russian hacking of the election.”

Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor for the northern district of California, said: “Complex charges against nearly three dozen people [and] organizations in less than two years is unheard of. Federal investigations may go on for three or four years before charges are brought against a few defendants. Also despite nearly daily false attacks from the president and his allies, the entire team has just kept its head down and done their work.”

The Guardian also says Trump is cornered.

Trump is approaching the midway point in his presidency and, some argue, a point of no return. The recent midterm elections left him wounded, House Democrats are said to be aiming a “subpoena cannon” at every aspect of his life and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation appears to be nearing its endgame.

“There’s no doubt we’re entering new territory and Donald Trump is in big trouble,” said Larry Jacobs, the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “The election results, no matter what he says, were devastating to him. The coalition he put together is clearly strained and he seems incapable of creating consensus.”

Ya think?

the president has been acting like a man cornered. The catalogue is too long to list in full but here are some of the lowlights:

  • Trump fired Jeff Sessions and hired Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, in what many see as a threat to the special counsel.
  • He tried to ban a CNN correspondent from the White House but lost in court.
  • He skipped a visit to a military cemetery in France.
  • He criticised the admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
  • He floated bizarre theories for the wildfires in California, twice referred to the destroyed city of Paradise as “Pleasure” and revelled in ignorance of climate change.
  • He referred to the Democrat Adam Schiff as “Adam Schitt”.
  • He issued a bewildering statement (633 words with eight exclamation marks) questioning the CIA’s reported conclusion that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • His daughter Ivanka was caught using a personal email account for government business.
  • He scolded the ninth circuit court of appeals, earning a rare rebuke from the chief justice of the supreme court.
  • It was reported that he wanted the justice department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey.
  • He authorised troops on the US-Mexico border to use “lethal force”, despite concerns their presence is a political stunt.

None of it’s new but it’s nice to have a handy list.

Trump’s inability to stay silent suggests he has learned nothing from his election drubbing. Other presidents have suffered similar fates in the midterms, only to bounce back and win re-election. But they have done so by making changes and showing humility; when Trump was asked by Fox News to rank himself in the pantheon of great presidents, he awarded himself an A+; when he was asked by a reporter what he was grateful for on Thanksgiving, he talked about himself.

Well, he’s an extreme narcissist. Narcissists don’t do self-correction, let alone humility or apology.

Rick Tyler, a political analyst and Republican consultant, said: “Donald Trump seems like he’s worried about two things. First, he’s clearly worried about the Mueller report. If it was purely a question of ego and whether Russia helped him get elected, this is an overreaction. There’s something else going on.

“Second, if you analyse Saudi Arabia and the Khashoggi incident, what Trump says makes no sense. Saudi Arabia is not going to cancel contracts and only has a negligible impact on the cost of oil and gas. Yet Trump promoted the awful cover story. He’s hiding something. There’s something there. He’s not protecting the crown prince; he’s protecting himself.”

Third, there’s that lawsuit against the Trump Foundation.

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