"What you're seeing is the boiling of the frog slowly."
And they have persisted in attempting to smear special counsel Robert Mueller in the hope of discrediting him in the eyes of the public, and to provide a basis — albeit a transparently tenuous one — for firing him as he zeroes in on Trump’s inner circle, and Trump himself.
But to many observers, Team Trump doth protest too much. And the stubborn insistence that the entire investigation is all a hoax or a fraud all but confirms the exact opposite.
As Hallie Jackson, chief White House correspondent for NBC News, noted during a panel discussion Sunday morning on “Meet the Press,” the lashing out hardly shows the kind of confidence it likely intends to.
“My sense is, what you’re seeing is the boiling of the frog slowly,” she noted, highlighting the stark difference between Trump’s complaints about a “witch hunt” and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ claims from the podium that Trump is fine with Mueller continuing to do his job.
And as far as the mood among those in the West Wing, Jackson offered a notable assessment.
“You can’t overstate the paranoia,” she declared.
JACKSON: So, I think my sense is, what you’re seeing is the boiling of the frog slowly. This started back when the president talked about this as a witch hunt back in the day. But then the White House, very publicly said at the podium, that we’re at — when we asked Sarah Sanders, she said, ‘No, no, the president is going to continue to allow Bob Mueller to do his job.’ But I think slowly you’re seeing this escalation of real questions being raised about Mueller’s credibility, with the FBI agent who was let go. That is a major issue.
I also — for people, Republicans, allies of the president — I will also tell you, mood-wise, you can’t overstate the paranoia, I think, and the concern inside the West Wing about this investigation. Although the president, I’m told, with associates, loves to be talking about his tax bill. He’s actually feeling pretty good about where he is right now.
CHUCK TODD: You think the groundwork’s being laid here for the president to have at least some support to fire Mueller?
DAVID BROOKS: Totally.
The frantic insistence that the Russia investigation is not worth the paper on which the multiple indictments of Trump’s associates have been written, and also that long-time public servant and decorated war hero Mueller is a hack with no credibility, are not going to put a halt to the probe any time soon.
People in the White House and within the bubble that is right-wing media may think they are projecting an air of calm assurance.