Donald Trump is telling his closest confidants that he expects special counsel Robert Mueller to wrap up his Russia election collusion probe soon, and to say in writing that he is legally in the clear.
The president calls the months-long investigation a bulls**t’ exercise, friends told CNN, insisting to anyone who will listen that ‘I don’t know any Russians!’
Mueller is examining claims, so far unsubstantiated, that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to tilt the 2016 presidential election in the future president’s favor.
Trump has called the operation a Democrat-inspired ‘witch hunt,’ and told reporters on Friday that there was ‘absolutely no collusion. I didn’t make a phone call to Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it.’
Returning to the White House from Camp David on Sunday, the president insisted he had no plans to fire Mueller, even as the special prosecutor climbs the ladder to grill ever more senior prey.
Mueller’s team has been beset with charges of bias in recent weeks, with lawyers on his team accused of making private comments disparaging Trump.
Trump’s confidence that a letter of exoneration is coming soon is based on his lawyers’ assurances, sources told CNN, making him ‘less frustrated’ about the probe’s dragged-out nature.
Those attorneys are expected to meet with Mueller this week, and the special counsel has reportedly concluded all his planned interviews with White House aides.
If Trump is right and he emerges in the New Year with a letter absolving him of legal responsibility for everything Russia-related, it would mark a stunning turnaround, allowing him to proceed with the presidency without the cloud of suspicion that has marked his first year in office.
If not, he will continue to be the subject of speculation related to a pair of parallel investigations in the House and Senate.
Most slow-walking could also throw him into new fits of rage over a process that he sees as rigged against him.
‘The President’s mantra is, “All this Russia stuff, it’s all going to wrap up soon.” He repeats it as fact,’ said one source who speaks to Trump told CNN.
‘Part of me is like – “Are you serious? You believe this?”‘
Another longtime friend said Trump’s attorneys have ‘lulled him into a false sense of security.’
‘I’ve known him long enough to know that disappointing him is a problem and they’ve built up a level of expectations for him that are unrealistic,’ the friend of the president said.
Trump has long believed that an end to the political circus is just around the corner.
In April he told DailyMail.com he suspected the probe wouldn’t go anywhere, and would be a brief hiccup in his presidency.
Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, told CNN Mueller won’t likely write a letter exonerating Trump until he has fully wrapped up his investigation.
But stories casting Mueller’s investigators in a less than impartial light has added pressure for him to wrap it up to save face.
‘If you’re Mueller and you want to have any shred of credibility, you have to find a way,’ Corallo said.
‘If you reach the conclusion that the President of the United States doesn’t have anything to do with this … he’s going to have to find some way to make that public.’