President Trump is abroad on his first foreign trip, but that hasn't stopped his problems from piling up at home. And despite administration officials' public attempts at pivoting the focus to the national security risks of leaking information to the public, staffers are privately "exasperated" by Trump, according to Axios' Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen.
"They view their boss as completely undisciplined and self-destructive," Axios reported.
On Friday, the New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials former FBI director James Comey was "a real nut job" and that firing Comey had taken "great pressure" off of him. Trump had fired Comey one day before making the alleged comments to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during an Oval Office meeting.
The Times' story was just the latest in a slew of bombshell revelations that raised questions about whether the president was actively trying to squash an FBI investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia. Following a tumultuous two weeks, legal analysts and lawmakers said the controversy could be bigger than Watergate and have even raised the possibility of presidential impeachment on obstruction of justice charges.
The "entire landscape of Trump's behavior" is what would prompt an obstruction of justice charge, said Jens David Ohlin, an associate dean at Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal law. That includes "telling Comey to back off on the Flynn investigation, firing him when he wouldn’t, and then admitting on national television that he dismissed Comey because of the Russia investigation."
Trump's statement about Comey to the Russians is significant because it "is indirect evidence of his corrupt intent when he fired Comey," Ohlin added. "Any good lawyer would tell Trump that he needs to stop talking about the Russia investigation.”
In the wake of Trump's comments and explosive media coverage over the last 2 weeks, White House lawyers have reportedly begun researching presidential impeachment, sources told CNN.
But despite escalating tension surrounding the Russia probe and Trump's interference with the investigation, White House staffers are more "numb than panicked," according to Axios.
"Those who went through the campaign with Trump are numb to the crises and thought so many times before that this [sic] would be the one to break Trump," Axios reported. And despite their apparent frustration with their boss, White House officials admit "Trump has got some special resilience that they can't begin to understand. A coat of protection that almost seems supernatural to them."
Trump's most stalwart supporters, Axios added, are "unfazed" by the Trump-Russia revelations and fallout from Comey's firing. "They're just swinging for Trump and have no qualms working to defend him."
The Trump-Russia controversy picked up new steam on Wednesday when deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to helm the FBI's Russia probe.
Rosenstein's decision drew bipartisan support, and intelligence officials said Mueller's selection meant Trump "may have gone from the frying pan into the fire."
"Mueller has a reputation for being a straight shooter and won’t be swayed by pressure from the White House," Ohlin said. And although there's no timeline on how long the investigation will take, "it’s not a good development for the Trump White House."
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