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Jennifer Rubin: President’s bag of tricks don’t work on Mueller

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Jennifer Rubin, Syndicated Columnist

We have seen President Donald Trump's routine when threatened politically.

Jennifer Rubin
Jennifer Rubin

Trump is arguably the most thin-skinned president in modern times, and the slightest provocation will set him off on a tirade of insults, counterattacks, distractions and self-pity.

We've seen it all in the Russia investigation.

He has insulted the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee ("Liddle" Adam Schiff).

He has called former FBI Director James Comey a leaker and falsely claimed the FBI was in tatters under his management. He has tried to attack former President Barack Obama -- for bugging Trump Tower (not true), not doing anything about Russian interference (Obama did, but why then did Trump deny for so long that there was interference?) and being weaker than himself when it comes to Russia.

With the help of his minion House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., he has cooked up one phony scandal after another, including unmasking and the application for a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on suspected Russian stooge Carter Page.

He has tried to make donations to the campaign of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's wife an issue.

He has tried to claim the FBI is tainted altogether based on the texts of two agents who expressed their political views. He has badgered Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself.

All along he has whined that the Russia investigation is a hoax or a "witch hunt" despite the indictment of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chief Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager and transition adviser Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, 13 Russians, Richard Pinedo and Alex van der Zwaan.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe even forced Trump to acknowledge there was, in fact, a Russian plot.

Trump has bellyached to the Russian foreign minister and the ambassador. ("I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

One wonders why he told the Russians that.

Was it to indicate to them that he thought he could be more forthcoming?)

Finally, on his behalf, Trump's lawyers are complaining he doesn't have time to sit down for an interview, or it would be some kind of bad precedent. (They do know that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan all sat down in one context or another with those probing possible wrongdoing and/or a policy failure, right?)

The remarkable part of this is that none of it has slowed Mueller one iota. He's proceeding with remarkable speed, building a chain of subordinates who appear ready to flip on their former bosses.

None of Trump's nonsensical tactics even register with Mueller, except maybe to confirm Trump's corrupt intent to short-circuit the investigation.

Mueller is a decidedly non-political actor by virtue of his job and temperament. Trump, for the first time since he was president, has met someone he cannot distract, threaten, charm or discredit.

To the contrary, Mueller's image is doing just fine, according to polls.

A new USA Today-Suffolk University Poll finds that "a 58 percent majority say they have a lot or some trust in Mueller's investigation, while a 57 percent majority say they have little or no trust in Trump's denials."

In addition, "75 percent, say they take the charges filed by Mueller seriously; most of them say they take them 'very' seriously. Just one in five, 20 percent, dismiss them as not particularly serious."

That's a dramatic upturn from last March, when 63 percent called Russian interference "very or somewhat serious."

Even worse for Trump, a huge majority (76 percent) think Russia will meddle again, while about 60 percent think Trump has not done enough to respond. (In fact, he has done nothing.)

In short, Trump is entirely ineffective when trying to combat our legal system with political tactics.

It's for this very reason that Trump and other autocratic leaders want to attack an independent judiciary and politicize law enforcement.

So long as they are battling out in the legal -- not political -- realm, Trump is a sitting duck -- which explains why he's trying to hide from an interview with his nemesis.

JENNIFER RUBIN writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.