May 17, 2018, 12:01 PM ET

One year in, President Trump’s evolving public response to the Robert Mueller probe


When the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia a year ago Thursday, President Trump said he was looking “forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has hit the one year mark, and the president’s attacks on the inquiry aren’t subsiding. Thursday morning, he used Twitter to criticize the probe.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s new lead personal attorney, told Bloomberg that Trump would use the anniversary as a way to blast the probe and push for its conclusion.

“We are going to try as best we can to put the message out there that it has been a year, there has been no evidence presented of collusion or obstruction, and it is about time for them to end the investigation,” Giuliani told Bloomberg. “We don’t want to signal our action if this doesn’t work -- we are going to hope they listen to us -- but obviously we have a Plan B and C.”

Over the course of the past year, Trump has employed a range of tactics to respond to the special counsel’s probe. Here’s a look at some of those approaches.

A measured approach to start, followed by declarations of a ‘witch hunt’

When the Justice Department appointed Mueller as the special counsel, President Trump reacted with a statement simply denying any collusion and predicting the inquiry will wrap up soon.

“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly,” he said.

At the time, a senior White House official said the president’s reaction to the decision was measured – but within 24 hours, the president turned to bashing the probe, calling it a “witch hunt” on Twitter, a description he’s repeatedly turned to over the past year.

In a lunch with television network anchors the day after the announcement, the president painted the probe as an attempt to hurt the country.

“I believe it hurts our country terribly because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," Trump told ABC News’ David Muir. “It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way. That's all this is.”

Willing to cooperate

In August, USA Today reported one of the president’s attorneys relayed messages of “appreciation” from the president to the special counsel.

“He appreciates what Bob Mueller is doing,” Trump’s then-counsel John Dowd told USA Today. “He asked me to share that with him and that’s what I’ve done.”

In January, the president’s legal team argued it has demonstrated an “unprecedented” level of cooperation with the special counsel. The team said the White House provided over 20,000 pages of documents, including information relating to former FBI Director James Comey, and former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russia, to the special counsel. The Trump campaign produced more than 1.4 million documents.

At the time, the legal team said more than 20 White House aides, 17 campaign employees and 11 individuals affiliated with the campaign gave voluntary interviews to the special counsel or congressional committees conducting their own probes into Russian meddling in the election.

As recently as last month, the president tweeted he had embraced a “cooperative, disciplined approach” with the special counsel – but shortly after he hired Giuliani, who has taken a more combative direction with the investigation.

Talk of an interview

The prospect of a presidential interview has loomed large over the special counsel’s investigation. As early as June, the president said he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath, but since then, the president and his team have vacillated over whether an interview would become a reality.

Earlier this month, the president expressed a willingness to speak with Mueller even if members of his legal team oppose an interview.

“Nobody wants to speak more than me — in fact, against my lawyers. Because most lawyers say, ‘Never speak with anybody.’ I would love to speak because we’ve done nothing wrong,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn.

“I have to find that we’re going to be treated fairly because everybody sees it now and it’s a pure witch hunt,” he added.

Attacks grow personal, taking direct aim at Mueller

PHOTO: Donald Trump speaks to the press before making his way to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on May 4, 2018. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump speaks to the press before making his way to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on May 4, 2018.

After months of criticizing the probe as a whole, the president trained his ire directly on Mueller in March – calling him out by name on Twitter for the first time.

In the weeks that followed, the president ramped up his criticism of Mueller – declaring he was “the most conflicted of all.”

During an April meeting with top military leaders to discuss Syria, President Trump took his attacks on the special counsel where they hadn’t gone before – openly musing about firing Mueller.

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” the president asked aloud following a reporter’s question. “I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. But I think it's really a sad situation when you look at what happened. Many people have said you should fire him.”

News - One year in, President Trump’s evolving public response to the Robert Mueller probe

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  • brian nrndss

    I think we missed our window................we should have send him a package to let him know to stop.......genie is out of the bag with a nut job

  • Paul James

    Ken Starr and Whitewater went on for more than THREE years.

  • Turned around

    I have gotten so used to his Tweets, I nearly forgot that Bush, Clinton and Obama were not rambling madmen.

    Never forget.

  • NuffAlready

    It's really quite pitiful. Our President is so frightened, so terrorized by this investigation that he really has NO IDEA how to act! He gets a pep talk from one aide one minute, an instigating, angry rabble rousing talk from another the next minute.....and each time his Emotion of the Day is splattered all over the media.

  • Bob

    I wonder why this story would even be here today. The real story is Obama, and his intelligence and law enforcement buddies, spied on Trump and tried to set him up. Maybe if you could honestly report on this you might finally admit the Mueller investigation was a farce and you apologize for your role in keeping this info from the public.

  • James Hurley

    Trump responds with a weak, inane commentary. Any male bench presses 500 pounds with the use of anabolic substances as dianabol, primobolan, anadrol, and nandrolone. The brute effort wins rounds for the industry and commerce.

  • Bep08

    The liberal collusion myth has died. Their little progressive heads are exploiding over thr fact
    that TRUMP IS A SUCCESSFUL PRESIDENT. Just watch, everytime he scores a win... returned NK hostages
    or 3.9 unemployment. The left runs home to mama, this false collusion narative.

  • Hank R

    Interesting article by David French in the National Review entitled

    GOP-Controlled Senate Committees Just Undermined Republican Conspiracy Theories about the Russia Investigation

    "The public debate surrounding the entire affair is toxic, and it’s rendered more toxic by the fact that we’re still largely working with various scraps and crumbs of information. We’re connecting dots, but we can’t yet see the full picture. You can read tens of thousands of words of analysis on the left without any serious reckoning with the origin of the Steele dossier or of the problematic Strzok–Page text exchanges. You can read tens of thousands of words of equivalent analysis on the right without any serious effort to grapple with the contention that Russia tried to help Trump win and the reality that Trump’s son tried to collaborate with Russia."

    There are many other valid points.

  • JuPMod

    “I believe it hurts our country terribly because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country,"
    Look in a mirror, Trump, and you'll see the *real* person who is dividing our country. With an approval rating of 40%, not many Americans are uniting with you.

  • Nearl45 61

    The latest is the attempt to accuse, yet again, Obama of spying on Trump, with a “if this were true” false equivalency to “this is true” attempt out out an FBI source.

    Nixonian style obstruction to be sure.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Evolving? Hardly. The reaction is a shambles.

  • Kevin from Wa.

    So if Republicans try to throttle Mueller by cutting his funding....HOW MUCH COULD Mueller get IF HE SET UP A GO FUND ME PAGE?

  • arlincarlson

    Manafort's son in law coped a plea with Mueller today, The train is moving again.

  • 40acre

    I think they meant devolving.

  • fmd160

    His Tweets make me gag.

  • Sonora Nomad

    Witch hunt?...Nope
    Truth hunt? ...Yep

  • Alex Ross

    The great divider and bully said:

    “I believe it hurts our country terribly because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," Trump told ABC News’ David Muir.


  • davecorsaro

    Hey Donnie, stop the "gaslighting" and understand. It's only a "witch hunt" if there are no witches. I think we have a real one and the cauldron is getting HOT !

  • mik8888

    Guilliani's comments sound almost...threatening, heh heh...

  • Zqueen

    The more Trump says "no collusion, no obstruction" the more guilty he looks.

  • thinkmore

    "...disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt". The Mueller investigation is none of these things. Progress is ongoing.

  • Steve1956

    Don't worry conman, he's already uncovered a lot and your fixer might just turn on you at any time with all they have on him.