Trump rejecting Bannon’s hard line against Mueller

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Story highlights

  • Bannon spoke with Trump following Monday’s announcements, a source said
  • The President made clear to aides Tuesday that he’s not adopting Bannon’s legal advice

Bannon spoke with Trump following Monday’s announcements from the special counsel, and advocated taking a harsher approach to Mueller, a person familiar with their conversation said. While Trump encouraged Bannon to lead the public charge against Mueller, the President made clear to aides Tuesday that he’s not adopting Bannon’s advice.

As the President stews about the recent developments in the Russia investigation, he’s receiving conflicting arguments about how to proceed. His current legal team and strategy has the support of White House chief of staff John Kelly and — perhaps most importantly — members of the President’s family, according to a source familiar with the dynamic.

In the wake of Bannon’s criticism, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said again Tuesday the President had no plans of changing his tack with Mueller.

“I have a high degree of confidence that the facts in this case dictate the course that we’re on,” Cobb told CNN, “and have contributed to the special counsel’s ability to move expeditiously — and, ideally, to be in a position to reach a prompt resolution and conclusion.”

Could reverse course

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Even as Trump maintains his current approach, however, people close to him acknowledge he could reverse himself at some point and determine the advice from his legal team isn’t working. Trump is expecting further indictments of his campaign associates, his confidants say, but unexpected moves by Mueller could spur him to adopt a tougher strategy.

A person close to the President said that more donors and outside friends are starting to wonder if Bannon is right, saying: “The thinking is ‘you will take the same abuse whether you go after (Mueller) or you don’t.’ “

Bannon’s calls to take a harder line against Mueller — including pushing to cut his funding and insisting he limit the scope of his investigation — were seen by some inside the White House as at odds with the strategy of representing a client who has nothing to hide. The administration has already been cooperating, including turning over troves of email, in a decision that cannot suddenly be undone.

“This is Bannon’s wishful thinking,” a person close to the President said. “It’s never going to happen. It’s just not going to happen.”

But the very public suggestions from Bannon do allow the President to have an outside-inside strategy: cooperating with the investigation internally in hopes of reaching a faster conclusion, even while supporting those who loudly criticize it from the outside.

The latest example of White House cooperation came late Tuesday, as an administration official confirmed that communications director Hope Hicks, one of the President’s closest aides, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s team in November. Several other aides are also set to be interviewed by the special counsel’s office in the coming weeks, while others already have been.

The conversations about a legal strategy took center stage on Tuesday at the White House, where press secretary Sarah Sanders said the President did not support Bannon’s call to squeeze funding for the special counsel’s office or to push back harder on Mueller.

“No,” Sanders said. “I’m not sure what we’d push back against. All they’ve done is come up with ways and shown more and more that there was no connection between the Trump campaign and collusion with Russia.”

Asked directly whether the President was pleased with his current legal team, Sanders said: “I’m not sure how he couldn’t.”

“All of the revelations that have taken place over the last several days and hours have nothing to do with the President and have nothing to do with the campaign,” Sanders said. “I think the further we get into it, the more and more we see that happen.”

A day after two of Trump’s campaign aides were indicted and a third was revealed to have pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI — with whom he’s now cooperating — Trump made repeated attempts to return to his governing agenda, which he’s urgently working to revive.

A pall over the West Wing

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But even as Trump looks ahead to a tax reform fight and a lengthy trip to Asia, there remained a pall over the West Wing as aides and associates continued to grapple with the contents of Monday’s legal announcements.

While most of Trump’s staff — and the President himself — had long expected former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates to be indicted by the special counsel, the guilty plea by George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser, came seemingly from nowhere.

Aides who worked on the campaign struggled to remember the man who court documents revealed sought to arrange meetings between members of the Trump campaign and top ranking Kremlin officials.

The notion that such an unassuming figure could be caught in Mueller’s net had some Trump aides on edge. The suggestion in the documents that he is cooperating with the FBI investigation — including the possibility that he’s worn a wire to collect information from other campaign associates — has prompted a degree of consternation among Trump associates, who now wonder who else might be working with Mueller’s team.

Members of Trump’s staff are “freaked out,” one person close to the White House said, with some aides wondering “who has been trying to bait me?”

The President himself is similarly concerned there could be other unforeseen indictments coming down that neither he nor his legal team have anticipated.

“He’s insane about it because he’s wondering how many of these things are there out there that I don’t know about?” the person close to the President said.

Trump remains focused elsewhere

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parent container Id of the video element*/function findNextVideo(currentVideoId) {var i,vidObj;if (currentVideoId && jQuery.isArray(currentVideoCollection) && currentVideoCollection.length > 0) {for (i = 0; i 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.showEndSlateForContainer();}}}callbackObj = {onPlayerReady: function (containerId) {CNN.VideoPlayer.reportLoadTime(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleInitialExpandableVideoState(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, CNN.pageVis.isDocumentVisible());if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {var containerClassId = ‘#’ + containerId;if (jQuery(containerClassId).parents(‘.js-pg-rail-tall__head’).length) {videoPinner = new CNN.VideoPinner(containerClassId);videoPinner.init();} else {CNN.VideoPlayer.hideThumbnail(containerId);}}},/** Listen to the metadata event which fires right after the ad ends and the actual video playback begins*/onContentEntryLoad: function(containerId, playerId, contentid, isQueue) {CNN.VideoPlayer.showSpinner(containerId);},onContentMetadata: function (containerId, playerId, metadata, contentId, duration, width, height) {var endSlateLen = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0).length;CNN.VideoSourceUtils.updateSource(containerId, metadata);if (endSlateLen > 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.fetchAndShowRecommendedVideos(metadata);}},onAdPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, token, mode, id, duration, blockId, adType) {clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onTrackingFullscreen: function (containerId, PlayerId, dataObj) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleFullscreenChange(containerId, dataObj);},onContentPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, event) {var playerInstance,prevVideoId;/** When the video content starts playing, inject analytics data* for Aspen (if enabled) and the companion ad layout* (if it was set when the ad played) should switch back to* epic ad layout. onContentPlay calls updateCompanionLayout* with the ‘restoreEpicAds’ layout to make this switch*/if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreEpicAds’);}clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibraryName(containerId) === ‘fave’) {playerInstance = FAVE.player.getInstance(containerId) || null;} else {playerInstance = containerId && window.cnnVideoManager.getPlayerByContainer(containerId).videoInstance.cvp || null;}prevVideoId = (window.jsmd && window.jsmd.v && (window.jsmd.v.eVar18 || window.jsmd.v.eVar4)) || ”;if (playerInstance && typeof playerInstance.reportAnalytics === ‘function’) {if (prevVideoId.length === 0 && document.referrer && document.referrer.search(//videos//) >= 0) {prevVideoId = document.referrer.replace(/^(?:http|https)://[^/]/videos/(.+.w+)(?:/video/playlists/.*)?$/, ‘/video/$1’);if (prevVideoId === document.referrer) {prevVideoId = ”;}}playerInstance.reportAnalytics(‘videoPageData’, {videoCollection: currentVideoCollectionId,videoBranding: CNN.omniture.branding_content_page,templateType: CNN.omniture.template_type,nextVideo: nextVideoId,previousVideo: prevVideoId,referrerType: ”,referrerUrl: document.referrer});}if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onContentReplayRequest: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);var $endSlate = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0);if ($endSlate.length > 0) {$endSlate.removeClass(‘video__end-slate–active’).addClass(‘video__end-slate–inactive’);}}}},onContentBegin: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {CNN.VideoPlayer.mutePlayer(containerId);if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘removeEpicAds’);}CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoSourceUtils.clearSource(containerId);jQuery(document).triggerVideoContentStarted();},onContentComplete: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreFreewheel’);}navigateToNextVideo(contentId, containerId);},onContentEnd: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(false);}}},onCVPVisibilityChange: function (containerId, cvpId, visible) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, visible);}};if (typeof configObj.context !== ‘string’ || configObj.context.length 0) {configObj.adsection = window.ssid;}CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibrary(configObj, callbackObj, isLivePlayer);});/* videodemanddust is a default feature of the injector */CNN.INJECTOR.scriptComplete(‘videodemanddust’);



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