At the White House, Trump Takes Selfies and Seethes Over Mueller

WASHINGTON — Outside the White House, President Trump grinned for selfies with Alabama’s Crimson Tide, telling the college football champions that they had beaten their rivals so brutally, “you flat-out made them quit” — a feat he said he knew something about himself.

Inside the White House, Mr. Trump — furious after the F.B.I. raided his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen — spent much of the day brooding and fearful and near what two people close to the West Wing described as a “meltdown.”

Mr. Trump’s public and private wrath about the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election are nothing new. But the raids on Monday on Mr. Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room have sent the president to new heights of outrage, setting the White House on edge as it faces a national security crisis in Syria and more internal staff churn.

On Tuesday, top White House aides described themselves as deeply anxious over the prospect that the president might use the treatment of his lawyer as a pretext to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

But Mr. Mueller still had a job by the end of the day as Mr. Trump sought solace in allies like Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and a frequent Fox News commentator. Mr. Dershowitz met Tuesday with Mr. Trump at the White House and then stayed for dinner.

“This is a very dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations,” Mr. Dershowitz said Monday night on Fox in an interview with Sean Hannity, one of Mr. Trump’s favorite hosts. “Shoe on the other foot. If this were Hillary Clinton being investigated and they went into her lawyer’s office, the A.C.L.U. would be on every television station in America, jumping up and down.”

Mr. Trump took up the theme on Twitter on Tuesday morning, posting that “attorney–client privilege is dead!”

Mr. Dershowitz, who has argued that Mr. Trump should not agree to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller, said Mr. Cohen’s treatment had vindicated that point of view. “This sends a powerful message that cooperation is not going to be rewarded by Mueller,” Mr. Dershowitz said on Fox. “The result may very well be far less cooperation” with the special counsel.

Elsewhere in the White House, as the president considered options on Syria and absorbed cable news chyrons about Mr. Cohen, staff members at the National Security Council were rattled by the ouster of the homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert. Two White House officials said the move came at the urging of the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, whom one of the officials described as serving as the president’s shiny new object.

Mr. Trump’s mood had begun to sour even before the raids on his lawyer. People close to the White House said that over the weekend, the president engaged in few activities other than dinner at the Trump International Hotel. He tuned into Fox News, they said, watched reports about the so-called deep state looking to sink his presidency and became unglued.

 

 

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