Two Other Trump Tweet Innovations: “Fraudulent Activities” and “Conflicts of Interest”

Much was made over the weekend of Trump, for the first time (though he once RTed this Tweet mentioning the special counsel), invoking Robert Mueller’s name in his Twitter rants. (As a reminder, this searchable archive of his Tweets is genius.)

But I want to look at another innovation in the Tweet. This is also the first time Trump has claimed the investigation itself is based on “fraudulent activities.” During the campaign, he once used the term “fraudulent activity” to accuse Hillary of “fraudulent activity.” And he’s a fan of the word “fraudulent,” having used it 17 times — to describe the Steele dossier, Ted Cruz’s IA victory, Obama’s claims about ObamaCare, and Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Duncan. He most often uses it to describe critical reporting or other claims (such as in advertisements) made about himself.

Then, this morning, Trump for the first time accused the Mueller investigation (this time without using Bobby Three Sticks’ name) of having “conflicts of interest,” a term Trump has actually only used in two other Tweets (one, two), both describing Hillary.

While it’s always fraught to try to understand Trump’s feverish little brain, it is fairly clear his Tweets serve as a mirror of things he’s seeing, most often, but by no means exclusively, Fox and Friends.

So I want to consider what these two innovations in his attacks on the Mueller investigation might suggest.

It may be nothing: just a reflection of his defensiveness.

It might mean his rat-fucking buddies are planning some new conspiracy theory they plan to use to try to undermine the Mueller inquiry; Roger Stone has been working the press this weekend. Or maybe it’s an old one: last summer Trump’s considered challenging Mueller’s appointment because his past history with Jim Comey amounted to a conflict.

But there’s another possibility.

In NYT’s first coverage of Trump and John Dowd’s increasing aggressiveness against Mueller, they tied it to two related events: the ongoing negotiations over a Mueller interview of Trump (which Axios claims  still focuses on the Comey and Flynn firings).

Mueller is said to have sent questions to Mr. Trump’s legal team as part of negotiations over an interview with the president. Mr. Mueller is seeking the interview, according to two people close to the White House, in order to ask follow-up questions, but put forward the list as a start.

They also tie it to (their own report) that Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization, which they in turn tie to increased unease among Trump’s legal team.

To keep the president at bay, the lawyers — led by the White House lawyer Ty Cobb — told him that Mr. Mueller’s investigation would be over by last December and that they would ask Mr. Mueller to put out a statement saying the president was not a target of the investigation.

But instead, Mr. Trump was livid anew this week over the Times report that Mr. Mueller had subpoenaed his corporate records, including those related to Russia, according to one person close to the White House.

The president’s lawyers appear to be feeling increasingly uneasy about where they stand. This month, Mr. Trump met with a veteran Washington lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, to discuss coming on board to take over the president’s dealings with Mr. Mueller’s office and possibly replacing Donald F. McGahn II as White House counsel. The president’s personal lawyers, Mr. Dowd and Jay Sekulow, did not know about the meeting, prompting concerns that they could be pushed aside, and potentially making them less resistant to Mr. Trump’s whims about handling the inquiry.

While the other possibilities are admittedly more likely (that is, that these two innovations reflect nothing more than Trump’s natural projection), imagine what would happen if Mueller asked Trump to account for his own conflicts and fraudulent activities, both key to his business model.

Yes, accusing Robert Mueller (or his predecessors) of committing fraudulent activities and having conflicts of interest is an attack squarely within the norm for Trump, those terms are also the perfect mirror for the President’s own business.

45 replies
    • jharp says:

      I don’t visit Axios so I can’t say for sure.

      And the reason I don’t patronize Axios is I don’t trust them.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        I think that’s about right. Haxios is the Everclear of access journalism, and in a better journalistic environment it wouldn’t exist, but as long as you accept it for what it is — the journalism that comes solely from cultivating access, bottled at 190 proof — you can judge it and its sourcing and the motivations of its sources accordingly.

  1. orionATL says:

    seems to me this is just bas8c propaganda generation.

    you take a word or phrase the you know- or fear – could accurately be used to describe your activity, say “racist” and you apply it to the other side before they apply it to you. then when they apply it properly to you, it sounds like they are just echoing what they have already said, creating a “you’re one two” impression when in fact the yerm applies properly only to you.

    the whole point of deceits like this is to scramble the thinking, to create doubt about where the truth lies, of people who are low-knowledge about the situation.

    • orionATL says:


      “…  it sounds like they are just echoing what they have already said…”

      should read

      “…  it sounds like you are just echoing what they have already said…”

    • TheraP says:

      I think we could entertain both hypotheses, yours and Marcy’s – because they point to different sources. Your source, and I often think the same thing, is a frequent GOP propaganda tactic. And I think that tactic is aimed, as you suggest, at muddying the waters. It’s a way of “normalizing” something – making it “common” even if evil. So that the Fox-cult adherents come to see this as a “garden-variety attack” and not the egregious unethical/immoral/illegal MO underpinning somebody or something.

      Then there’s the defense maneuver Trump uses constantly of projection – which Marcy is analyzing above. Seems to me his projections often come from words or phrases he’s recently heard, applied to his own deluded view of “reality” (putting it in quotes since I’m not sure he sees that – very much- as we do).

      So we’ve got the GOP propaganda (purposeful) bending of reality on the one hand and the bent “reality” of Trump (using that term in both the British and the American senses).

      Seems to me that Trump is currently under a type of stress he’s never, ever faced. Something in childhood must have protected him from that (likely his mother) and he’s used his father’s and Roy Cohen’s tactics (independently and often) to attack any sources of stress – but that’s beginning to fail – bigly!

      I think the only defense he’s got left is to retreat into his delusions, possibly via a massive decompensation. And I suspect the White House sycophants are very, very, very busy trying to shore him up on a daily, if not hourly basis.

      All of this, as we know, puts our nation in a terrifying position. Not to speak of the entire world.

      I hope (and literally pray) that Mueller and his Crew are receiving FBI protection day and night.

      • Trip says:

        “Left” outlets normalize by the day, as well.

        Rick Tyler on MSNBC via Rawstory:

        “Here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to go out on a limb,” Tyler began. “The president has calculated now — and I think it’s true — is the reaction from the Republicans. He is going to fire Robert Mueller. And you know what’s going to happen? Nothing. That’s what’s going to happen. There will be no response from Republican leadership, from Congress.”

        So we have this repetition now, first from Kristol, then from this Tyler-guy and others, bracing the US for Mueller’s firing, further adding that NOTHING will happen as a consequence.

        Why isn’t anyone in the press hammering the shit out of McConnell, Ryan, and the entire cast of  enablers? What about Flake, the fake-ass dissenter? We get Graham, but he has been a butt kisser to Trump and likely to switch a position at any given moment. This normalizes that it’s okay what Trump is doing and leading up to, with the 4th estate’s indifferent nod.

        • Newsy says:

          I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m especially disappointed in the media. Reporters should be sitting in Ryan’s and McConnells offices every single day until they answer questions. They should be hammering them day and night with questions. As a former journalist, this kind of indifference is heartbreaking.

  2. Peterr says:

    The big conflict of interest stuff Trump has pushed lately is McCabe’s purported conflict because of McCabe’s wife running for office with allegedly lots of Hillary Clinton money helping her out.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The standard Republican line is that, of course, any investigation of a president or senior political figure must be done by representatives of the opposing party.  So Trump is already getting a freebie, given that Mueller is a long-time registered Republican, and Trump himself made Rosenstein deputy AG.

      The MSM’s breathless repetition that Trump is “boiling over” with rage and frustration is silly.  It badly frames what is happening. In any normal circumstance, the president would recuse himself from having anything to do with an investigation into his campaign or into himself or senior figures in his campaign and administration. It is both a massive conflict of interest and easily slides into overt obstruction of justice.

      Of course Trump is upset.  Trump, his campaign, and several of his campaign and administration figures are targets of a federal investigations.  Several of them have already pleaded guilty to federal crimes.  I imagine Al Capone was angry and upset, too, at being the target of Eliot Ness’s investigation.  But concentrating on his feelings would miss the most important part of the story.

  3. BroD says:

    I get the impression that Trump’s disorganized brain picks up phrases that have a certain ‘ring’ but instead of comprehending them, it searches only for ways to deploy those phrases as weapons against others. What comes out is gibberish, of course, but that gibberish does offer some insight into the conversations he’s hearing.

    • Anne says:

      …conversations he’s hearing *about himself that he knows are true*, maybe.  He’s acting totally guilty, what an idiot.  He’s not even a good criminal.

    • Avattoir says:

      Some scenario like this?

      ‘So when can you start?’

      ‘Properly ethical practice requires that I review the matter with our conflicts committee before committing to-‘

      ‘-Conflicts? What kinda conflicts?’

      ‘Well, for starters, I advised former Secretary Clinton on her legal position vis a vis the FOI application and FBI investigation into her work-related emails. There may be others that don’t come to mind immediately, plus I don’t what all else my partners’ advice and counsel to others might be. And, of course, we’d also have to consider conflicts of interest that might aris-‘

      ‘Conflicts of interest? Conflicts of interest? That’s good, because, you know, a lot of people don’t consider those! Okay, so you’ll get back to me on this immediately, right, immediately? But not right away, I get that. Anyway, right now there’s something I gotta se-, uh, do. Conflicts … that’s two Cs no Ks? I knew that, just checking.’

    • SomeCallMeTim says:

      Entirely consistent with ‘saying things that are to be taken seriously by his supporters, not literally.’

  4. cat herder says:

    I fully expect that before this is over, Trump remind everyone about that time Obama got caught on an open mic talking about grabbing women by the pussy.

  5. jon says:

    after reading bob woodwards , the shadow, I recall lawyer infighting is very common problem with presidents being investigated by a special counsel. they all have their own agenda. whoever wins out amongst the legal team should give insight to his defense .mcgahn will be out first

  6. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Joe DiGenova apparently set to join the idiot’s legal team, while Vicky Toensing continues to rep Prince and Clovis. The dream of the 90s is alive.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      And DiGenova has been pushing the “FBI conspiracy” line on the usual teevee outlets. It’s not hard to imagine the idiot fixated on Fox News, saying “get me the guy from the TV” and when he gets tired of the last guy from the TV he hired.

      I can honestly imagine a situation where the White House runs briefings by getting senior admin officials to sit in a mockup of the Fox studio and piping it through to the residence.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      (Hilariously, though, DiGenova archives offer up dozens of hours of cable news and thousands of words on why a president can be indicted, and how an indictment might be good for the nation.)

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Meanwhile, Marcy does a nice interview with New Focus’s Mike DeRosa, broadcast this afternoon, and which can be found online at Wesleyan University’s public radio station,

  8. pseudonymous in nc says:

    One last thing on the DiGenova hire that I’m sure EW will visit, given how Joe & Vicky ran interference as a team during the Libby trial: does this suggest that Clovis and/or Prince might be a source of problems for the White House?

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Oh, and Joe & Vicky jointly represented Mark Corallo, who’s also already spoken to Mueller.

      This feels almost like one of those tech acquisitions that doesn’t care about the business but wants the patents.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Don’t get me started. Ok, you did, but not bad.

          To clarify, the SCO that Rayne refers to here is the now new fake SCO (nee Santa Cruz Operation), which is really TSCOG (The SCO Group), which is really an op to kill GPL. See Groklaw. It is *NOT* Special Counsel Office.

          Similar issue that I pointed out before regarding IRA. The new IRA is the troll op out of Russia (Internet Research Agency) which is not the same as Irish Republican Army.

          Just pointing this out for the future.

  9. Rapier says:

    I’d say diGenova is managing rhetoric for the Leader.
    Is there an official term for a Beltway lawyer who acts as a rat fucker?

  10. Watson says:

    A Dem congressman said on tv today that a provision for a statutory special prosecutor could be inserted in the budget that must be passed by Friday to avoid a government shutdown. That seems like a useful gambit to protect Mueller.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It’s up to Rosenstein.  Trump would have to replace him or Sessions, getting in the process someone able and willing to fire Mueller, take the heat, and in the end not be thanked by the Don.  That sounds like more planning than the Don could normally handle, but he might manage it with help.

        The question will be how well he reads the GOP Congress.  Guys like Lindsey and Ryan make noise, but they seem to roll over when petted.  That kind of feral game is one of the Don’s few talents.  The issue, then, is how much trouble can the GOP anticipate if the GOP caves to Trump’s further obstruction.  Nobody, president or stable boy, works so hard and at such cost to obstruct investigations into his past if he does not have piles and piles and piles of manure to hide.

  11. Watson says:

    Trump firing Mueller will not happen?

    I hope you’re right, but I assume that if Trump fears he’s at risk of a criminal conviction he won’t hesitate to fire Rosenstein and whoever else stands in the way of firing Mueller, and there won’t be enough Repub defectors to stop him.

  12. SteveB says:

    It is perhaps worth noting that in addition to Trumps attack on Mueller for supposed conflicts of interest, Andrew McCarthy has argued in purportedly analytical piece that in relation to Gates and others Mueller has “shredded Departmental policy”

    Violation of Departmental policy is a specifically identified ground of good cause within regulation 28 CFR 600.7 governing the firing of the Special counsel.

    Orrin Hatch at Lawfare has (IMHO cogently) debunked McCarthy’s argument ; however as Steve Vladek has pointed out in his piece calling for legislative protection for Mueller, at present Mueller would have no avenue to challenge a spuriously asserted “good cause”.

    I suspect we are entering a phase where Trump supporters are intensifying their efforts to generate as many controversies around Mueller as possible, with scant regard for fact, logic or legal substance. Trumps tweets maybe incoherent, but if the purpose is to signal to his supporters to begin ratfucking in earnest a dog whistle will do.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      McCarthy’s problem is that he makes it too obvious: he starts with “what would create a pretext to fire Mueller?” and scratches out a ridiculous argument to fit.

      • SteveB says:

        Yes. I heard an interview with him recently where he is still pushing his original line that the appointment of Mueller was not lawful on the grounds that the regulations require a criminal predicate and that a counter intelligence investigation is ouside the scope of the regulations.

        The effort on this occasion seems particularly brazen for a former prosecutor (seemingly deliberately) to omit paragraphs of policy guidance sequential to ones he quotes because they contradict the point he is attempting to make.

        He then doubled down on the argument with a detailed “correction”.

        Perhaps he imagines that in the shitstorm thats being created his faux pas will be overlooked and forgotten.

  13. Kokuanani says:

    Is there any site that watches Fox in the morning & summarizes the content, so we mortals would have advanced notice of what Trump will be ranting about next?

    Seems like that would be a useful service  [even if painful for the provider].

Comments are closed.