Trump and Republicans Seek to Turn the Tables in Post-Mueller Washington – The New York Times

Trump and Republicans Seek to Turn the Tables in Post-Mueller Washington – The New York Times

Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also suggested a separate inquiry into potential anti-Trump bias at the F.B.I.Erin Schaff/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump and his Republican allies went on the offensive on Monday, vowing to pursue and even punish those responsible for the Russia investigation now that the special counsel has wrapped up without implicating him or his campaign in a criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump, grim faced and simmering with anger, denounced adversaries who have pounded him for two years over Russian election interference, calling them “treasonous” people who are guilty of “evil” deeds and should be investigated themselves. “Those people will certainly be looked at,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced he would do just that while also calling for a new special counsel to look at the origins of the last one. White House officials and Republican lawmakers demanded the resignation of a Democratic committee chairman investigating the Russia matter, and Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign lobbied television networks to blackball Democrats who advanced the collusion theory.

The assertive posture indicated that despite initial calls by Republican leaders to move on after the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the president and his supporters were intent on turning the tables on his foes. While Democrats saw the actions as revenge, Mr. Trump’s defenders said they wanted accountability for a “witch hunt” that has consumed half of his term.

“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say some treasonous things against our country,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “I’ve been looking at them for a long time,” he added, “and I’m saying why haven’t they been looked at? They lied to Congress, many of them, you know who they are. They’ve done so many evil things.”

The approach, if it lasts, contrasts with those of other presidents who survived major scandals. After the Iran-contra affair, President Ronald Reagan happily dropped the subject and focused on arms control talks with the Soviet Union and other issues. After being acquitted at his Senate impeachment trial, President Bill Clinton was just as eager to move on to Social Security and other initiatives.

But Mr. Trump and his allies on Monday sought to put his adversaries on the defensive and cement the view that Mr. Mueller’s report represents complete vindication. Mr. Mueller found no conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia, but he pointedly declined to exonerate the president on obstruction of justice, according to a Justice Department letter to lawmakers on Sunday.

Mr. Mueller’s report has yet to be released, so it remains unknown whether it includes damning new details that question the actions of Mr. Trump or his associates, even if they do not represent a crime. Six House Democratic committee chairmen sent a letter on Monday to Attorney General William P. Barr demanding he provide them the full report by next Tuesday.

Mr. Trump said on Monday that releasing the report “wouldn’t bother me at all,” but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, later in the day blocked a nonbinding resolution — already passed unanimously by the House — calling for the report to be made public, arguing that Mr. Barr should decide.

Democrats struggled to find a path ahead, with some urging the party to turn its attention to policy differences with Mr. Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has credited such a strategy with fueling last year’s midterm election victories and said she opposed trying to impeach the president “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.” She plans to unveil a health care plan on Tuesday.

“The report vindicates Nancy Pelosi’s judgment of proceeding with deliberateness and caution and focusing on issues that we can deliver for the American people,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California and a leading liberal voice in the House.

Republicans faced their own choice. After two years shadowed by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump has the opportunity to reset his presidency, but as he strode with new confidence into a post-Mueller world, he appeared more intent on payback.

Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, predicted that Mr. Trump “is going to go full animal” now that Mr. Mueller has wrapped up. The president, Mr. Bannon told Yahoo News, will “come off the chains” and use the findings to “bludgeon” his opposition.

Others close to the White House urged the president not to do that but instead focus on his own agenda. “The president has a unique historical opportunity, while in his re-election cycle, to reconnect to millions of Americans who have assumed he was guilty of serious wrongdoing, due to the unrelenting irresponsible media coverage of fake collusion,” said Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who golfed with Mr. Trump in Florida last weekend, agreed. “My advice to the president, for whatever it’s worth, is that you are probably stronger today than you have been at any time in your presidency,” he said, adding, “And if I were you, Mr. President, I would focus on what’s next for the country.”

Instead, Mr. Graham said, the president should leave it to him to go after the authors of the Russia investigation. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Graham announced that he would investigate anti-Trump bias at the F.B.I. and Justice Department and called on Mr. Barr to appoint a second special counsel to study the same issues.

“By any reasonable standard, Mr. Mueller fully investigated the Trump campaign,” he said. “You cannot say that about the other side of the story.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, echoed that, saying that the origin of the Russia investigation should be examined. “Who made it up?” he said on Fox News. “It had to come from somewhere. It didn’t just come out of thin air. I want to know who did it, who paid for it, who fueled it.”

Other Republicans piled on Democrats who have vocally asserted wrongdoing between the Trump campaign and Russia, taking aim specifically at Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the outspoken chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Has anyone heard from slimy Adam #fullofschiff Schiff today?” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, wrote on Twitter. “I mean it must be embarrassing to have have spent the last 2 years as the leader of the tinfoil hat brigade and have it all come crashing down so quick.”

Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, called on Mr. Schiff to resign as chairman.

“Schiff has met the standard that he has imposed on other members of Congress of when they should step back from their positions,” Mr. McCarthy told Politico. “He has exceeded that standard, and there is no question he should step down from the intel chairmanship.”

The president’s re-election campaign sent a memo to television producers naming Mr. Schiff and several other Democrats that it argued had “made outlandish, false claims” and should therefore be reconsidered before being booked again.

The National Republican Congressional Committee moved to use the special counsel’s conclusions against vulnerable Democrats who had accused Mr. Trump of colluding with Russia. The committee reached back for a July 2017 tweet from Representative Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, who won one of the most Republican seats now held by a Democrat.

“Now it’s time for Cunningham to put his big boy pants on and apologize to President Trump and his constituents for peddling dangerous conspiracy theories that divided the country,” the committee said in a statement.

As it happened, the one person Mr. Trump made a point of not going after on Monday was Mr. Mueller, who has been on the receiving end of scalding presidential Twitter blasts for more than a year. Asked by a reporter if Mr. Mueller acted honorably, Mr. Trump said: “Yes, he did. Yes, he did.”

Congressional Democrats were not backing off, promising to push ahead with an array of investigations into Mr. Trump, his businesses and his policies, while arguing that Mr. Mueller’s scope was relatively narrow and that without seeing all of Mr. Mueller’s evidence, there was no reason to adjust course.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii and a member of Mr. Graham’s committee, accused Republicans of taking a narrow-minded victory lap.

“The pattern of the Republicans is very clear that they continue to play up to the president,” she said. “That is a pattern. They don’t want to look into his activities. They make excuses to him. They support everything he does and it continues.”

Mr. Schiff, for his part, said he “would not be intimidated” by the Republicans and stood by his comments about public evidence of collusion. He did concede that after reading Mr. Mueller’s full report he would probably need to reorient the Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into possible foreign influence over the president.

“We have a constitutional obligation to make sure that the president and the people are not compromised by a foreign power, and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump, Citing ‘Evil Deeds,’ Turns Wrath on His Critics. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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