President Donald Trump may have been publicly claiming to be unconcerned about the Robert Mueller indictments, but new reports indicate that he is privately livid that they happened and apprehensive about what will happen next.
"The walls are closing in. Everyone is freaking out," one senior Republican told The Washington Post. Trump was reported to be personally upset at the possibility that the Mueller probe will start look into his private financial matters and was generally annoyed that the focus on the investigation distracted public attention from his policy initiatives like tax reform.
Even Trump's temporary sense of vindication that the indictments against former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates involved matters predating the campaign was short-lived. The Trump White House became concerned when they found out George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign unpaid foreign policy adviser, had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about trying to cultivate a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
To deflect from this, Trump has focused on Manafort and has come up with various ways of downplaying the charges against Trump's former aide, according to the Associated Press. He's reportedly been telling aides that Manafort, the man once in charge of his campaign, was only a "part-timer," and that he hired someone who was merely politically corrupt.
One common theme among White House staffers and Trump himself was relief that Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, was not among those indicted.
"[Manafort] is further removed because he wasn't here when Trump was elected . . . because it's Manafort it's purely a campaign matter," a White House source told Axios. "Nobody internal will be weighing in. That's the holding position."
At the same time, the White House's insistence that the indictment of Manafort and Gates couldn't possibly hurt them does not ring true.
"If there's any blowback it's going to be because Gates was not completely cut off," a former Trump campaign official told Axios.
By Matthew Rozsa
Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.