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President Trump seeks maximum advantage from Mueller report as Democrats try to change subject

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters down the hall as the president departs a closed Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters down the hall as the president departs a closed Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans on Tuesday sought to capitalize on a conclusion that his campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election, while Democrats tried to change the subject to healthcare.

Trump and his top aides attacked unidentified political opponents for starting the campaign investigation, calling the actions treasonous and worth probing.

“I think what happened was a disgrace,” Trump told reporters on a visit to the U.S. Capitol, where he had lunch with Republican senators.

Republicans also were out for retribution with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell saying he supported a push for an inquiry into potential missteps by law enforcement officials in their probe of the Trump.

Democrats, who saw their drive to use the Russia investigation to damage Trump and his 2020 re-election bid dissipate, demanded the full report from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller be released while also focusing on healthcare.

Senator Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, leaped on a court filing from the Justice Department that said the entire Obamacare healthcare law - the signature legislative accomplishment of Democratic President Barack Obama - should be struck down in the courts.

The law provides healthcare coverage for an estimated 20 million people, and Trump and his Republican allies, who see it as government overreach, have failed to replace it despite vows to do so.

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“It is a stark reminder of the difference between our two parties: Democrats are fighting to expand and improve healthcare coverage and lower costs while Republicans are trying to take it all away and raise costs,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Republicans said during their lunch with Trump they discussed ways to improve the healthcare system.

“We’ve got to be the party of healthcare,” said Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally.

Democrats also kept up the pressure on the Justice Department to release the full Mueller report by an April 2 deadline. So far Attorney General William Barr has released only a letter summarizing Mueller’s report without providing access to the material that Mueller gathered in 22 months.

‘PRETTY HEAVY FACTS’

Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Democrats were firm in their demand to see the full report by April 2.

“It says, according to Barr, that he laid out facts on both sides,” he said. “So there must have been some pretty heavy facts for it to be even-Steven.”

Cummings said he was saddened by the possibility of Republicans going after those involved in the Mueller investigation.

“It’s like something I’d picture in Russia, not in this country,” he said.

Trump still faces congressional investigations into his personal and business affairs but White House aides and confidants said he was both giddy and irked in the aftermath of the Mueller report. He was happy that the summary found he did not conspire with Russia but annoyed at Democrats and some journalists for pounding a drum beat of scandal for the past two years, they said.

They said they see no sign he is willing to move past the controversy and instead wants Americans to get a sense of what he has gone through, along with friends who were questioned by the Mueller team and subsequently face hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

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Mueller’s investigation ensnared dozens of people, including several Trump advisers and a series of Russian nationals and companies.

“The president has a perfect combination of exuberation and righteous anger,” said a senior White House official. “He has the right to be angry at an entire mainstream media and the entire Democrat Party for pushing a lie on the American people for two years without evidence.”

Trump’s re-election campaign launched fund-raising drives in the aftermath of the Mueller report. “Democrats allowed this WITCH HUNT to go on for 2 YEARS. It’s time to show them we’re tired of their PARTISAN investigations,” said one fund-raising appeal.

Trump suggested darkly that he had been the victim of a smear campaign launched by senior officials in the Obama administration.

“I went very high up, and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high up,” said Trump, without offering details. “This should never happen to a president again.”

Trump advisers were predicting that Trump would be on the warpath at a “Make America Great Again” rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday night, his first major appearance since the Mueller investigation concluded.

“We reserve the right to remind the American people that the Democrats have tried for two years, by lying to the American people, to overturn the election results of 2016,” a senior Trump campaign official said. “And they don’t get to just turn the page and say never mind.” (Reporting By Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Alex Alper, Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Editing by Bill Trott)

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