It’s a witch hunt, a vendetta, the worst presidential harassment in history.
That’s what President Donald Trump has shouted for two years about the special counsel’s Russia probe. Now, barring an eleventh-hour surprise, Trump and his allies are starting to see it as something potentially very different: a political opportunity.
With Robert Mueller’s findings expected any day, the president has grown increasingly confident the report will produce what he insisted all along: no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. And Trump and his advisers are considering how to weaponize those possible findings for the 2020 race, according to current and former White House officials and presidential confidants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
And so, the Barnetts’ new chocolate Lab was christened Mueller — an homage to the stoic special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign played any part.
For devoted Democrats like Barnett, Robert Mueller has become a sort of folk hero since his appointment in May 2017. To them, he represents calm in the face of a storm, quiet in a city of bombast, a symbol of hope that a presidency they view as dishonorable might soon face some type of consequences.
A change is underway as well among congressional Democrats, who have long believed the report would offer damning evidence against the president. The Democrats are busy building new avenues for evidence to come out, opening a broad array of investigations of Trump’s White House and businesses that go far beyond Mueller’s focus on Russian interference to help Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
It’s a striking role reversal.
No one knows exactly what Mueller will say, but Trump, his allies and members of Congress are trying to map out the post-probe political dynamics.