WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and his allies did not wait for Robert Mueller to finish testifying Wednesday about his investigation into the sitting president to frame the moment as a victory for the White House, mocking the former special counsel’s findings and performance.
The president tweeted four times during the first half of Mueller’s testimony, largely quoting Fox News coverage of the hearing, including anchor Chris Wallace saying, “This has been a disaster for the Democrats and a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller.”
His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted repeatedly, mocking Mueller’s lack of familiarity with some aspects of the investigation and accusing him of playing favorites.
“Funny, Mueller can’t understand the Republicans but he can totally understand the Democrats questions. This is a disaster for dems,” Trump Jr. wrote.
And the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, blasted Mueller’s frequent stumbles and calls for questions to be repeated, tweeting the former FBI director was “being destroyed on credibility, knowledge, competence and numerous ‘ahs,’ pauses and excuses like “beyond my purview.”
Mueller’s nationally televised appearance on Capitol Hill was long anticipated as a potential inflection point for the presidency, one that could galvanize more House Democrats toward impeachment or help dispel the investigatory cloud that has shadowed the White House for more than two years. Ever mindful of the need to spin powerful televised images, Trump and his fellow Republicans unleashed a barrage of tweets that continued a pattern of attacks in which Trump has made baseless claims about Mueller’s probe and its findings.
Trump in recent days had claimed that he would not watch much, if any, of the back-to-back hearings. But before Mueller even took his seat to testify, the president had tweeted nine times about the investigation, making clear that he had his mind focused squarely on the proceedings unfolding at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“So Democrats and others can illegally fabricate a crime, try pinning it on a very innocent President, and when he fights back against this illegal and treasonous attack on our Country, they call It Obstruction?” Trump wrote in one early tweet. “Wrong! Why didn’t Robert Mueller investigate the investigators?”
In fact, the Mueller report did not declare there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Nor did the special counsel’s report exonerate Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.
Trump also revived a baseless charge that Mueller was “highly conflicted.” Mueller, a longtime Republican, was cleared by the Justice Department’s ethics experts to lead the Russia investigation.
Trump over the last week had been speculating with confidants about how the hearings would go. And while he expressed no worry that Mueller would reveal anything damaging, Trump was irritated that the former special counsel was being given the national stage, according to two Republicans close to the White House. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Wary of Americans being captivated by finally hearing Mueller speak at length, Trump seethed to one adviser that he was annoyed Democrats would be given a tool to ramp up their investigations — and that cable networks would have new footage of Mueller to play on loop.
In the hearing’s opening minutes, short, direct questioning from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., yielded soundbite-ready answers from Mueller, who stated that he could not clear the president of any wrongdoing. But under further questioning from members of both parties, Mueller’s answers were more slow and hesitant.
Though the probe did not result in charges of criminal conspiracy or obstruction, there has been growing concern among those close to the president that Mueller’s appearance could push undecided or reluctant Democrats toward impeachment. But at least early on, the president’s allies seemed happy with the results.
Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to the president, tweeted “Drop the Mic” over a video clip of Mueller reading from his opening statement that “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Tim Murtagh, the campaign’s communications director, tweeted, “It was never anything but a witch hunt!”
But despite the cheer, there was concern among some Republicans that the hearing, if not a home run for Democrats, could still produce moments that could wound Trump. For example, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., asked Mueller, “Your investigation found that the president took steps to terminate the special counsel, correct?”
The special counsel responded: “Correct.”
The president had a light schedule Wednesday morning during Mueller’s testimony. Later in the day he was headed to West Virginia for a closed evening fundraiser. Aides suggested that he would speak to reporters and directly respond to Mueller when the president left the White House.
NEW YORK (AP) – A helicopter crash-landed on the roof of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper Monday, killing the pilot and briefly unnerving the city.
The crash happened at around 2 p.m. in a steady rain and clouds that obscured the roof of the 750-foot (229-meter) AXA Equitable building.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spoke to reporters at the scene about 20 minutes after the crash, said the impact shook the building and caused a fire that was quickly brought under control. There were no other reports of injuries.
The crash, close to both Rockefeller Center and Times Square, sent rescue vehicles swarming to the building and immediately evoked memories of the Sept. 11 attacks, though officials said there were no indications it was related to terrorism.
“If you’re a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11. And I remember that morning all too well. So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes,” Cuomo said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it would investigate. It was not immediately known what type of helicopter was involved. New York officials said the pilot was believed to be the only one aboard.
Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper.
Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the building, said workers got an announcement telling everyone to exit, and he later heard from people around him that there was a fire on the roof. The evacuation wasn’t chaotic, Rodriguez said, but he was rattled because he immediately thought of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It’s scary when something like this happens,” he said.
Alex Jacobs was working on the seventh floor when he heard bells and an announcement to evacuate. He and his colleagues – who hadn’t heard or felt an impact – used stairs to a fire exit. “It’s really unfortunate. I Just hope everyone’s OK,” he said.
New York City has a history of both minor and major helicopter wrecks and crash landings.
Last month, a helicopter crash landed in the Hudson River near a busy Manhattan heliport. The pilot escaped mostly unscathed.
Five people died when a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the East River last year. Three people died in another crash into the same river in 2011. Nine people died in a collision between a sightseeing helicopter and a small plane in 2009, not far from the scene of Monday’s mishap.
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — West Point officials say one cadet was killed and 22 people were injured when a vehicle they were riding in for summer training overturned.
The U.S. Military Academy says the vehicle overturned on a dirt road around 6:45 a.m. Thursday. Twenty cadets and two soldiers on the light medium tactical vehicle were injured.
Lieutenant Col. Christopher Ophardt could not provide the severity of the injuries or the name of cadet who died.
The accident occurred near Camp Natural Bridge, an area where cadet summer training takes place.
Ophardt says the investigation of the cause of the single-vehicle accident was continuing.
COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday lauded the heroism of American and Allied service members who participated in the D-Day invasion that changed the fortunes of World War II, saying they “are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live.”
Trump joined other world leaders at Normandy American Cemetery in France to honor those who died and participated in the battle.
The president described the 130,000 service members who fought as the “citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn.”
Trump also sought to assure allies skittish about relying on the U.S. under his tenure, saying: “To all of our friends and partners — our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war, and proven in the blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable.”
He said the abundance of courage showed by D-Day participants came from an abundance of faith.
“The exceptional might came from an exceptional spirit,” Trump said.
Trump was joined by French President Emmanuel Macron, who told American D-Day veterans that “France doesn’t forget” what they sacrificed for his country’s liberty from Nazi Germany.
“We know what we owe to you veterans: our freedom,” Macron said. “On behalf of my nation, I just want to say, thank you.”
Trump, who participated in D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth, England, on Wednesday, said in France that America’s veterans are the pride of the U.S. He shared the personal stories of several American D-Day veterans with the audience. Many veterans wore military uniforms bedecked with medals.
Following the program and gun salute, Trump, Macron and their wives walked to an overlook above Omaha Beach, the scene of the bloodiest fighting. They stood silently as a bugler played “Taps” and surveyed a map of the invasion. They also watched as fighter jets and other aircraft, including some that left trails of red, white and blue smoke, flew overhead. At the cemetery, Melania Trump placed a bouquet of white flowers at the base of a cross-shaped headstone.
Trump and Macron were traveling separately to Caen, France, for a meeting and lunch before Trump returns to his golf course in Ireland.
At the ceremony, Trump said Americans are drawn to the shores of Normandy “as though it were a part of our very soul.” He noted that many of the men who lost their lives here were fathers who would never meet their infant sons and daughters because they had a job to do.
“They came in wave after wave without question, without hesitation and without complaint,” Trump said.
The cemetery contains grave markers for more than 9,300 American servicemen. Trump noted that each marker has been adopted by a French family and that people come from all over France to “look after our boys.”
“They kneel, they cry, they pray, they place flowers and they never forget,” Trump said. “Today America embraces the French people and thanks you for honoring our beloved war dead.”