Trump Seeks to Rally Political Base as Mueller Probe Accelerates

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As a special counsel investigation into his campaign accelerates, President Donald Trump and his allies are trying to rally his political base with warnings that any outcome other than vindication will be an attempt to thwart the will of voters.

“They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you won with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Huntington, West Virginia, Thursday night. “I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one.”

He followed up Friday morning on his Twitter account by highlighting a cable news commentator predicting a national “uprising” if a member of Trump’s family is indicted.

Trump is going on the offensive in seeking to cast the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s campaign in political terms following revelations that special counsel Robert Mueller is using a federal grand jury in Washington to help collect information on Russia’s interference and possible collusion by Trump associates.

The president has reached out to his political base in recent weeks as his legislative agenda has stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress and the White House has been wracked by turmoil and turnover. His approval numbers have fallen below 40 percent in five recent polls that also show some erosion of his support from all but the most loyal Republicans.

Friendly Territory

In politically friendly territory like West Virginia Thursday night and on sympathetic cable shows, Trump is finding support at a time when he has complained that traditional allies have deserted him.

Trump on Friday reposted a tweet from the account of Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” program, with a video clip of an interview with Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News personality and former judge, who was asked about the grand jury’s involvement in the Russia investigation.

“My concern is if they end up with an indictment against a family member just to, you know, get at Donald Trump when they couldn’t get at him, there’s going to be an uproar, a real uprising in this country,” Pirro said in the clip, which Trump highlighted to his 35 million followers.

‘Crazy Story’

Two speakers at Thursday night’s rally also embraced Trump’s theme that the idea of Russia having helped his campaign is a “fabrication” being pushed by his critics and should be dismissed. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump told the crowd it is a “crazy story.”

“The same people who gave us fake polls the entire election, those are the people pushing that story, so keep that in mind,” Lara Trump said as she kicked off the event.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Trump supporter, asked, “Have we not heard enough about the Russians?”

In recent weeks, Mueller expanded the focus of his probe to examine a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Kushner, Manafort

Investigators also are looking into the business dealings of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now a White House adviser, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, according to two other people familiar with the investigation. All of the people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the continuing probe.

Mueller also has asked the White House to preserve all communications related to a June 2016 meeting during which the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort met with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer, Rinat Akhmetshin.

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said in a statement issued by the White House Thursday that he wasn’t aware that Mueller was using a Washington grand jury.

“The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly” and “is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller,” Cobb said, adding, “we have no reason to believe” that Trump is under investigation personally.

At Thursday night’s rally, Trump put the investigation into personal terms for his voters.

“Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign,” Trump said. “We didn’t win because of Russia, we won because of you.”

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs, Chris Strohm, and Shannon Pettypiece