President Trump Attacks Credibility Of FBI, DOJ After Watchdog Report
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump was briefed on the Justice Department's inspector general report on the Clinton email investigation this morning. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the report's findings bolster Trump's beliefs about the FBI director that Trump fired, James Comey.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: It reaffirmed the president's suspicions about Comey's conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI.
CORNISH: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now from the White House. And, Mara, is there enough in the report to help the president politically?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Sure. There's enough in this report that he can say it reaffirms his attacks on his No. 1 nemesis, James Comey. The report called him insubordinate. That could be a new nickname Trump will affix to him. It said that Comey used bad judgment. But as Carrie just explained, it definitely presented a mixed picture because it said there was no political bias towards Clinton on the part of Comey. But there was enough in the report to show the president at least that in his mind, there were bad actors in the FBI motivated by animus against him. And it's no longer just his opinion. He now has an official document from the Department of Justice to point to.
CORNISH: At the same time, the president has also been saying that Comey helped Clinton because of the way he handled her email investigation. I mean, does the IG report back that up?
LIASSON: No, it shows that there was no political motivation in the way Comey handled the report. Of course Democrats think Comey's actions cost Clinton the presidency. But still, there is enough in this report that the president, if he wants to, can use this to continue to attack the FBI and to Comey.
CORNISH: In the meantime, I understand the president is facing a new lawsuit. Who is suing him, and why?
LIASSON: This is the New York attorney general. She is bringing a suit. She's alleging illegal conduct by the president and three of his adult children in relation to Trump's personal charitable foundation. The New York AG says that the charitable foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Trump to his businesses or nonprofits. So this is something that we've heard about a lot - that the foundation didn't do much in the way of charitable activity. Now it's in court in New York.
CORNISH: Can you talk about what the president had to say about this or the White House?
LIASSON: Yes. The White House didn't have much to say, but the president started tweeting about it, and he responded in a very familiar fashion. He tweeted, quote, "the sleazy New York Democrats are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18 million and gave out more money than it took in." He also tweeted, quote, "I won't settle the case."
So he is going after the New York AG in the same way he's been going after other investigations, other lawsuits. His strategy is to attack his adversaries, hope to undermine their credibility, so even if he can't prevail legally, he can prevail politically. He can dismiss these investigations as nothing more than partisan witch hunts regardless of what results from them. And if polls are correct, this strategy is working because already public opinion about Robert Mueller has been declining among Republicans. They used to see him as a fair arbiter. They no longer do.
CORNISH: I wanted to ask you about that because - do you get the sense that his party is rallying around his stance?
LIASSON: Yes, I think so. There always was a pretty ardent group of Republicans on Capitol Hill that were carrying out these attacks on Mueller, trying to investigate the investigation, calling on the Justice Department to appoint a second special counsel and questioning how the investigation began. So that's been going on. I think that there are many members of Congress who still believe that the Mueller investigation should be allowed to take its course, but you hear more and more voices saying, you know, it's been over a year; let's wrap this thing up.
CORNISH: Do you get the sense that in any way it's overtaking his other news, what he considers a policy win in North Korea?
LIASSON: Well, that's always the problem with Donald Trump. He has a policy win, and then he comes on the plane, and he says, sadly, I must turn my attention to the witch hunt.
LIASSON: I mean, he just never really lets - basks in victory. He always goes on to pick another fight. So yes, it does take away a little bit from the great success he said he had in Singapore.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.