WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump insisted Wednesday that it is time for Republicans to “finally take control” of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and bring an end to a scandal that’s been looming over his presidency since he took office nearly a year ago.
Republicans were already doing their best to comply. The president’s allies spent the first 10 days of 2018 redoubling their efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and its congressional cousins, and protect Trump from any political or legal fallout.
“They’ve gone with the best defense is a good offense,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “Bob Mueller must be made of Kevlar, because they’ve definitely been shooting at him.”
The sheer number of Republican attacks on the Russia investigations in just the first few days of 2018 makes it easy to forget how many there have been. Here are a few:
Last Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who once had a famously bumpy relationship with Trump, backed the president’s close friend and ally, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), in a dispute with the FBI and Department of Justice. The DOJ hadn’t wanted to hand over certain investigatory documents to Nunes, who supposedly stepped down from the Russia investigation last April after he was caught being fed intelligence reports on White House grounds by officials who wanted to shield the president.
The same day, Fox News and other right-wing media hyped an anonymously sourced New York Post story that suggested Mueller’s grand jury contains too many black people. “Right-wing media’s offense-as-defense approach to protecting Trump has been a consistent drumbeat, but at a few intervals it can flare up,” noted Laura Keiter, the communications director at Media Matters for America, a progressive group that tracks conservative disinformation in the media. “We’re seeing it intensify right now — in part because of the feedback loop between right-wing media and congressional Republicans that are acting on right-wing media narratives; and, in part due to the increased pressure on Trump.”
Also on Wednesday, Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman whom Mueller has charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., money laundering and a variety of other federal crimes, launched a stunty (and likely doomed) lawsuit against the special counsel, alleging that his…