“This is an effort by the president to distract from his legal troubles and throw as much mud into the air as he can,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “But it’s doing enormous damage to the Justice Department. If they think they can placate him, they’ll probably find that doesn’t work. That doesn’t placate a bully.”
James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, said that Mr. Trump is trying to distort standard investigatory practices to insinuate wrongdoing.
“I didn’t know about this informant,” said Mr. Clapper, whose memoir, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” will be published Tuesday. “No one in the White House knew. Certainly the president didn’t know. This is a routine thing that goes on all the time. We’re making a huge mountain out of a molehill. The purpose was to understand what the Russians were doing.”
Mr. Trump has maintained from the beginning that the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election was a “witch hunt” inspired by Democrats who paid for research used to justify the inquiry.
But he has recently parted ways with lawyers who urged him not to attack Mr. Mueller and assured him that cooperation would ultimately exonerate him. In their place now is Mr. Giuliani and the guns-blazing approach that suits Mr. Trump more.
Robert F. Bauer, a former White House counsel under Mr. Obama who now teaches law at New York University, said part of the audience for Mr. Giuliani’s public blasts may be Mr. Trump, to assuage the president that someone is fighting for him. “The other audience for this of course is the political world that he needs to satisfy that he’s not in trouble, that he’s not going to be bullied,” Mr. Bauer said.
Mr. Dershowitz said that the president’s new White House special counsel, Emmet T. Flood, is “working the inside game” and gaming out the legal questions confronting Mr. Trump while Mr. Giuliani is laying the public ground for a confrontation if the inside game does not work.
“He has Rudy Giuliani out there in some senses preparing for a worst-case scenario in which he has to try to delegitimate the investigation, at least among his base, and make it into a red-blue issue,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “If he can make it a red-blue issue, he wins because Americans don’t want to see a president impeached based on partisanship.”