President Donald Trump unleashed a particularly vicious tirade against special counsel Robert Mueller to reporters on Thursday because he hasn’t read the Mueller report and was taken aback when he watched Mueller’s negative comments about him on Wednesday, said The New York Times’ White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.
“Remember, the president interprets the world through television,” Haberman noted Friday on CNN’s “New Day.” Until Wednesday, she said, “Mueller had not appeared on TV, talking” about the report, so “it caught the White House’s attention in a big way. Mueller stood there very clearly and said he couldn’t say the president didn’t commit a crime.”
Haberman suggested that Attorney General William Barr’s president-friendly summary of the Mueller report in mid-April — which was also televised — had eased Trump’s fears about the investigation.
Then Mueller made clear in his first public comments on the 448-page report that he believed he did not have the option to indict ― or even reach a decision about indicting ― a sitting president under Justice Department policy.
Trump viciously lashed Mueller in a rambling statement to reporters outside the White House on Thursday. Without offering any evidence, the president called Mueller “totally conflicted,” a biased “never-Trumper” and among “some of the worst human beings on Earth” opposed to him.
CNN host Alisyn Camerota said to Haberman that “Mueller didn’t say anything that dramatic that wasn’t in the report. But somehow, it seemed to have angered the president.”
Haberman responded: “Do you think the president has read the report? Because I do not.”
She suggested that, for Trump, watching Mueller’s comments on TV — and “interpreting everything through the screen ... in front of him” — had “much more resonance than almost anything else that has happened.”
Some political observers have speculated that Trump and certain advisers are trying to goad the Democrats into impeachment proceedings because that could help the president politically. But Haberman is convinced that Trump would view impeachment as a “sign of failure” and that it “would not help him in 2020.”
Check out Haberman’s interview in the video above.