Donald Trump returned from his Florida vacation on Sunday to find that the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia was still proceeding at full speed — and that made him furious, according to a CNN report Thursday. His rage over being misled by his lawyers, who assured him that the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller would be over by the end of 2017, may have intensified his rage at former top aide Steve Bannon, whose quotes in a new book were sharply critical of Trump’s approach to the Russia probe.
Trump’s lawyers met with members of Mueller’s team shortly before Christmas, and though the content of those discussions has not been made public, Trump’s lawyers came out of the meeting without wavering on their prediction that the Russia investigation would end soon.
But they no longer attached a date to when they believed the Mueller investigation would conclude. Prior to the meeting they had offered a series of shifting predictions, first saying that they believed the investigation would conclude by Thanksgiving, followed by a prediction that the probe would end before Christmas. When that didn’t happen, the legal team predicted that Mueller would conclude his probe by the end of the 2017 calendar year.
After the meeting with Mueller’s investigators, however, Trump legal counsel Jay Sekulow was more vague about when he expected the investigation to end.
“I know we, collectively, the lawyers, are looking forward to an expeditious wrapping up of this matter,” Sekulow said, days after he met with Mueller’s team.
Earlier reports, prior to the Christmas holiday, said Trump had expected that not only would the investigation conclude, but that Mueller would also personally write a “letter of exoneration” publicly clearing Trump of all possible wrongdoing in relation to the Russia collusion scandal. When that didn’t happen before Christmas, rumors circulating around Washington said that Trump went into a rage.
But after a lengthy vacation at his Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago estate — during which Trump golfed for seven straight days and hosted a lavish New Year’s Eve party for his wealthy friends and associates — Trump flew back to Washington, D.C., where temperatures sank into the 20s amid heavy snowfall, and the Russia investigation appeared to be accelerating rather than winding down.
Trump’s aides and close allies expected him to experience a “meltdown” if the Russia probe was not ended before the New Year’s holiday, CNN reported, but his fury was apparently made even worse on Wednesday when excerpts from a new book by New York-based journalist Michael Wolff were released.
The book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, paints a dire picture of Trump’s first year in office, with close aides ripping him behind his back, portraying him as bored, careless, incompetent, and possibly in a state of mental decline that left him unable to recall the names of his guests as they entered his Mar-a-Lago New Year’s party, and given to repeating the same anecdotes several times within the space of 10 minutes.
But the book also quotes Trump’s former campaign CEO and White House “Chief Strategist,” Bannon, describing a July 2016 meeting between Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and several Russians as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
Bannon was also quoted by Wolff as saying that the Russia investigation is “all about money laundering” and “their path to f****** Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner.”
Trump was described as “furious” and “disgusted” by Bannon’s quotes, quickly drafting a statement on Wednesday saying that Bannon had “lost his mind.”