In a new bombshell report, Vanity Fair says that for the first time since the Mueller investigation began earlier this year, key Trump allies in the West Wing are starting to worry that the notion of an impeachment might be slightly more than just a Democratic pipe dream. As former aide Sam Nunberg said, Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort has sparked concerns in the White House that Mueller has every intention of parsing through every Trump/Kushner financial dealing until he uncovers something incriminating.
Until now, Robert Mueller has haunted Donald Trump’s White House as a hovering, mostly unseen menace. But by securing indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and a surprise guilty plea from foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Mueller announced loudly that the Russia investigation poses an existential threat to the president. “Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.”
The first charges in the Mueller probe have kindled talk of what the endgame for Trump looks like, according to conversations with a half-dozen advisers and friends of the president. For the first time since the investigation began, the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream. According to a source, advisers in the West Wing are on edge and doing whatever they can not to be ensnared. One person close to Dina Powell and Gary Cohn said they’re making sure to leave rooms if the subject of Russia comes up.
While he has refrained so far from publicly criticizing Special Counsel Mueller, Vanity Fair says the President is growing increasingly frustrated and privately lashing out at his own legal team and even son-in-law Jared Kushner, who some around Trump have described as the “worst political adviser in the White House in modern history.”
Trump, meanwhile, has reacted to the deteriorating situation by lashing out on Twitter and venting in private to friends. He’s frustrated that the investigation seems to have no end in sight. “Trump wants to be critical of Mueller,” one person who’s been briefed on Trump’s thinking says. “He thinks it’s unfair criticism. Clinton hasn’t gotten anything like this. And what about Tony Podesta? Trump is like, When is that going to end?”
According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far. Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call. When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”
Focusing on the Kushner angle, Trump is reportedly increasingly blaming his son-in-law for his role in decisions that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. In a call Tuesday to former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Trump put blame on Kushner for the part he took in choices to fire former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey, Vanity Fair reported.
Roger Stone also recently said Kushner wasn’t giving Trump good advice — a sentiment which Trump reportedly agreed with, according to someone familiar with the conversation. Sam Nunberg, a former campaign aide to President Trump who was fired, echoed the statement.
“Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”
Meanwhile, former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is apparently also increasingly concerned that the establishment GOP might jump at the opportunity to “fuck over Trump” by supporting impeachment proceedings. Among other things, Bannon has proposed that Trump hire a more aggressive head lawyer and go on the offensive to “defund Mueller’s investigation or limit its scope.”
But these soft-power approaches are being criticized by Trump allies including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, who both believe establishment Republicans are waiting for a chance to impeach Trump. “The establishment has proven time and time again they will fuck Trump over,” a Bannon ally told me.
In a series of phone calls with Trump on Monday and Tuesday, Bannon told the president to shake up the legal team by installing an aggressive lawyer above Cobb, according to two sources briefed on the call. Bannon has also discussed ways to pressure Congress to defund Mueller’s investigation or limit its scope. “Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told me. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”
Bannon’s sense of urgency is being fueled by his belief that Trump’s hold on power is slipping. The collapse of Obamacare repeal, and the dimming chances that tax reform will pass soon—many Trump allies are deeply pessimistic about its prospects—have created the political climate for establishment Republicans to turn on Trump. Two weeks ago, according to a source, Bannon did a spitball analysis of the Cabinet to see which members would remain loyal to Trump in the event the 25th Amendment were invoked, thereby triggering a vote to remove the president from office. Bannon recently told people he’s not sure if Trump would survive such a vote. “One thing Steve wants Trump to do is take this more seriously,” the Bannon confidant told me. “Stop joking around. Stop tweeting.”
So what comes next: is the end nigh for the Trump administration, torn apart by internal strife and intrigue, especially if it fails to pass tax reform, or will the administration simply slam Vanity Fair’s reporting – as Bannon did three weeks ago after the publication reported that the former chief strategist had lost faith in Trump’s ability to complete his current term – and press on (with or without Kushner)? And how will Mueller’s probe impact any/all of this? We look forward to the answer, knowing that no matter the final outcome, stocks will simply keep grinding to new, record highs.