Trump draws attention to worst of Mueller report and himself

The Mueller report should have been reasonably good news for Donald Trump. It cleared himself of collusion with the Russians, and he wasn’t charged with obstruction of justice despite attempts to so.

But instead of highlighting the positives, he accentuated the negatives – his behaviour. He behaved badly in response to the report. He abused White House staff who testified that he was an obnoxious liar, as they were required to do under the law, and abused staff who ignored his his demands to sack people involved in the special investigation, which would have obstructed justice.

Trump was lucky that he didn’t get into legal trouble over attempting to obstruct justice, but he his added fuel to the fire raging about his actions and attempted actions as president.

Real Clear Politics: Trump Laces Into Ex-Advisers Who Spoke With Mueller

President Donald Trump lashed out Friday at current and former aides who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, insisting the deeply unflattering picture they painted of him and the White House was “total bullshit.”

In a series of angry tweets from rainy Palm Beach, Florida, Trump laced into those who, under oath, had shared with Mueller their accounts of how Trump tried numerous times to squash or influence the investigation and portrayed the White House as infected by a culture of lies, deceit and deception.

The attacks were a dramatic departure from the upbeat public face the White House had put on it just 24 hours earlier, when Trump celebrated the report’s findings as full exoneration and his counselor Kellyanne Conway called it “the best day” for Trump’s team since his election.

While the president, according to people close to him, did feel vindicated by the report, he also felt betrayed by those who had painted him in an unflattering light — even though they were speaking under oath and had been directed by the White House to cooperate fully with Mueller’s team.

While Mueller found no criminal evidence that Trump or his campaign aides colluded in Russian election meddling and did not recommend obstruction charges against the president, the 448-page report released Thursday nonetheless paints a damaging picture of the president, describing numerous cases where he discouraged witnesses from cooperating with prosecutors and prodded aides to mislead the public on his behalf to hamper the Russia probe he feared would cripple his presidency.

Whether the special investigation was justified or not (there were serious concerns about Russian interference in the US election that should have at least been investigated, and it was difficult to separate Trump’s campaign from that due to a number of connections between his campaign staff and Russian interests), it happened, and those being investigated, including Trump, should have properly complied with legal processes.

The report concluded that one reason Trump managed to stay out of trouble was that his “efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful … largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

He abused those who saved him from more serious problems.

Trump appeared to be especially angry with former White House counsel Don McGahn, who sat with Mueller for about 30 hours of interviews, and is referenced numerous times in the report.

In one particularly vivid passage, Mueller recounts how Trump called McGahn twice at home and directed him to set in motion Mueller’s firing. McGahn recoiled, packed up his office and threatened to resign, fearing the move would trigger a potential crisis akin to the Saturday Night Massacre of firings during the Watergate era.

In another section, Mueller details how Trump questioned McGahn’s note-taking, telling the White House counsel that, “Lawyers don ’t take notes” and that he’d “never had a lawyer who took notes.”

“Watch out for people that take so-called “notes,” when the notes never existed until needed,” Trump said in one of his tweets Friday. Others whose contemporaneous notes were referenced in the report include former staff secretary Rob Porter and Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff.

Notes of meetings are important for those who want to properly record political or legal matters. Trump has been criticised for having meetings with no records taken, including a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

This braises serious questions about whether adequate notes are taken of Trump’s meetings generally. If he despises and discourages note taking, is he pressuring staff into breaking the law? Or do they take the notes they are required to take despite him, and under threat of abuse form him?

Trump ended his tweet with the word, “a…” suggesting more was coming. More than eight hours later, he finally completed his thought, calling the probe a “big, fat, waste of time, energy and money” and threatening investigators by saying, “It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason.” There is no evidence of either.

Trump, and some supporters of Trump who have complained bitterly about the special investigation taking place, want investigations that suit their purposes, with less justification than the Mueller investigation.

Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary to former President George W. Bush, said in an appearance on Fox News that he didn’t understand why Trump decided to send his tweets lashing out at former aides.

“I think it’s over,” he said. “If I were the president, I would have basically declared victory with the Mueller report and everything that came out and move beyond it.”

Still, he said he hoped the White House had learned some lessons.

“The president and his entire team needs to realize how close they came to being charged with obstruction,” Fleischer said. “Asking your staff to lie and engaging in some of the activities that the Mueller report stated the president engaged in is too close to obstruction. And that’s a lesson I hope everybody at the White House takes with them going forward.”

Unfortunately Trump has shown repeatedly that he has trouble moving on. In this case he when he could have simply claimed vindication he chose to highlight his vindictive nature.

Trump doesn’t seem to have learned from it.

White House staff will have learned from it – that they are constantly under pressure and under threat of abuse or being fired by the president for doing their jobs properly.

National Review: The Problem with the Mueller Report

The first volume of the voluminous Mueller report, the half devoted to what was supposed to be the underlying crime of a Trump conspiracy with Russia, came up completely empty. It tells us very little that’s new. There’s no particularly sinister information about Carter Page, the bit player the FBI repeatedly told the FISA court was probably a Russian agent. The operators who portrayed themselves as closest to WikiLeaks or Russia were usually braggarts and liars exaggerating their importance. Nothing came of the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Paul Manafort wasn’t at the center of conspiracy between the campaign and Russia, but operating in his greedy self-interest.

So the investigation didn’t come up empty. It found that Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, had acted illegally. That must be some justification for the inquiry. As was finding out whether braggarts and liars exaggerating their importance were a cause for concern when working for the chief braggard and liar.

The Trump campaign was amateurish and without scruple in exploiting the WikiLeaks disclosures, but we all could have agreed on that long ago, without a years-long special-counsel investigation.

Indeed, given how unlikely collusion always was and how far the evidence gathered by Mueller is from showing  it, one wonders why the special counsel couldn’t have issued an interim report long ago, dispelling the persistent — and poisonous — idea that Trump was about to be proven a traitor.

Perhaps because there was sufficient information and doubt that warranted a thorough investigation.

One could wonder how different it might have been if Trump had simply claimed there was no collusion, and encouraged his campaign staff and White House staff to cooperate fully with the inquiry. Trump didn’t act like an innocent person, he tried to discredit and obstruct. I think that is likely to have extended the investigation findings timeframe.

The business end of the Mueller report is the second volume, on obstruction. The investigation ended up following the typical pattern of special-counsel probes on a much larger scale — fixating on process crimes even when there is no underlying offence.

But at the process stage it was not known if there was any underlying offences or not. Actually a number of offences have been discovered. Like Mannafort’s offences. And others, like Admitted Russian Agent Butina Asks U.S. Court to Be Lenient – “Maria Butina, who has admitted to working as a Russian agent to infiltrate an influential U.S. gun rights group and make inroads with conservative activists and Republicans, asked the court to sentence her to time served ahead of her April 26 sentencing, according to court documents.”

What about Michael Cohen? He was prosecuted for lying to try to protect Trump. It’s quite feasible that Cohen lied because Trump encouraged him to lie and to obstruct. If that’s the case it’s seriously bad that a president has done that.

Some of Trump’s deceptions were for public consumption, not to influence the investigation.

Deceptions for public consumption may not be a crime, but it emphasises how little trust can be placed on what Trump says “for public consumption”. That may not be a legal problem, but it is a problem for democracy.

Trump’s attempts to fire Mueller and get then-attorney general Jeff Sessions to curtail the investigation came to nothing.

At this stage at least coming to nothing has kept Trump clear of prosecution, but I still find his attempts to obstruct very concerning.

None of this is to deny the report’s distressing portrayal of how President Trump operates. He avoids potentially disastrous missteps, such as firing Mueller, when his aides ignore him and he fails to follow up. His dishonesty constantly creates dilemmas for those around him, forcing them to choose between lying for him or defying him.

At risk of being fired, as has happened to some who have defied Trump.

No president of the United States should ever applaud people for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors, or call someone who cooperates a “rat.” Most White House scandals involve presidents getting ill served by overly zealous, norm-defying advisers. In this episode, Trump flipped the script.

The US presidency, the White House, and agencies run by people appointed by Trump (and who can be fired by Trump) are still operating in this environment, where Trump continues to lie, he continues to abuse, he continues to threaten.

I find that quite troubling.

Yet there are still Trump defenders and apologists who seem to thing this situation and behaviour is ok because others have done it less badly.

I think that a president who can’t be trusted to the degree that Trump shouldn’t be trusted is an ongoing threat not just to the presidency and to the United States but also to the world.

What if Trump manages to appoint staff or public officials who are prepared to lie for him (actually some have, his media spokespeople can’t be trusted either), and who are prepared to break the law and obstruct justice at Trump’s request?

How do we know this hasn’t already happened?


  1. Duker

     /  April 21, 2019

    It seems to that the guy who has claimed repeatedly he has “one of the great memories of all time” answered around 30 times to Muellers written questions – I dont remember’

    I do not remember.”

    “I do not recall.”

    “I have no recollection.”

    “I have no independent recollection.”

    “I have no current recollection.”

    Repeat these are written answers returned well after the written questions were sent. Bill Clinton of course did submit to a ‘live’ question/answer session ( by video link to the White House). Trump totally refused any sort of question/answer session.

    • Pink David

       /  April 21, 2019

      “Bill Clinton of course did submit to a ‘live’ question/answer session ( by video link to the White House).”

      Is that the same Bill Clinton who was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice?

      “Trump totally refused any sort of question/answer session.”

      Trump is a legend for upholding the Constitution in this way.

      • The Consultant

         /  April 21, 2019

        Obviously Duker, despite being enthralled by this, did not bother listening to the hour long interview I put up yesterday: John Dowd: The Lawyer Who Defended Trump.

        About two thirds of the way through, Dowd explains in detail why Mueller had no chance of getting a subpoena from a judge to force Trump into an live, oral Q&A because you have to show the judge evidence that a crime has been committed and as Mueller himself had admitted to the Trump legal team, he had no evidence of Trump committing a crime.

        By contrast, Clinton had to testify to a Grand Jury – who decide if prosecution should proceed – because there was already evidence of a crime.

        Amazing this, and a few other basic facts about this situation get ignored by partisan haters. 🙂

        • Duker

           /  April 21, 2019

          Witnesses can be compelled to testify before Grand jury , not only those facing indictments

          ‘Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all gave evidence in federal criminal investigations”

          as for Mueller , as this story from Jan 2019
          “Mueller plows ahead, issuing more subpoenas to associates of conservative commentator”’ABC News has learned that at least three new witnesses connected to Stone associate Jerome Corsi – the former Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the far-right internet site Infowars – have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury hearing testimony on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

          That didnt take long ( 5 min) to get rid of that nonsense you peddle, no need to watch for 1 hr

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 21, 2019

      I would have done the same. If there is the slightest doubt or any chance someone else would challenge your memory that is what you must do to avoid being accused of deliberately lying in these circumstances. All the advantages lie with the prosecutor/interrogator.

      • Duker

         /  April 21, 2019

        memory ? It wasnt live !… he could have discussed with others to help his memory ( worlds greatest) and his lawyers write careful answers for Mueller.

        Then again if it was all a witch hunt , the truth would have solved all the issues. But we all know that Trump and Truth dont go together anytime.

  2. The Consultant

     /  April 21, 2019

    “I have no recollection” – why that was main answer Hillary Clinton gave to dozens of questions during the various hearings about Benghazi and her emails. It was the same for former FBI director Comey – a couple of hundred times in his case.

    Manafort? Sure – for crimes committed years earlier. And note that Tony Podesta shut down his long-time lobbying firm quick smart when Mueller headed for Manafort, because it was the same type of business. In fact Washington D.C. was/is packed with such, which is certainly worth an investigation, but as with other aspects of this case, Mueller was not prepared to go after others doing the same as Manafort. Tony is the brother of John Podesta – Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2016. Because of course.

    … want investigations that suit their purposes, with less justification than the Mueller investigation.

    Less justification? What BS. FISA applications from the FBI based on a dossier that was created by a former British spy, using Russian contacts, and not verified by the same FBI. A dossier that even the New York Times is now wondering was a piece of Russian disinformation

    Another possibility — one that Mr. Steele has not ruled out — could be Russian disinformation. That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.

    Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, saw that as plausible. “Russia has huge experience in spreading false information,” he said.

    Mr. Steele declined to comment for this article.
    Now the dossier, financed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and compiled by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, is likely to face new, possibly harsh scrutiny from multiple inquiries.

    Republicans in Congress have vowed to investigate. The Justice Department’s inspector general is considering whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation improperly relied on the dossier in applying to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant to eavesdrop on Carter Page, a Trump adviser. The inspector general wants to know what the F.B.I. learned about Mr. Steele’s sources and whether it disclosed any doubts about their veracity to the court.

    Not to mention all the illegal leaks of information that occurred – or are you unaware of how many people in security agencies like the FBI have been fired, retired, or demoted over issues related to all this? Somewhere around twenty – and that’s before the Inspector General’s report is done.

    Trump can’t let go? No – and niether can his enemies. Fortunately the so-called “brainless” voters of the USA have a better sense of this Beltway shitstorm: they couldn’t care less.

    • Squirrel diversions and defending the liar in chief.

      Claiming that ‘the voters’ couldn’t care less about his lies and bullying and attempts to obstruct justice may be true of some of them, who seem to be prepared to excuse any crap behaviour, but it doesn’t make it right or acceptable.

      It’s early days for polls, but indications are that the voters are not particularly supportive or happy.

      • Duker

         /  April 21, 2019

        Yep . The recent Congressional elections which covered every part of the country produced a swing of 9.7% to the democrats.
        Add that to the 2016 Congressional election (when Trump was running and a new president usually brings in more seats on his ‘coattails’) but produced a 4.6% swing to democrats.
        I dont like to add the % together as they are slightly different numbers but thats 10s millions who have shifted to Democrats or no longer vote republican

        • There is nothing definitive in current polling. Trump bounced back a bit when Barr released his summary, but then levelled off at about average the average line for the last year.

          There are initial signs of trump’s support dropping again after the full report release, but it’s too soon to know how that may go. I doubt it wil move far (unless something else major happens) – there seems to be a fairly loyal level of support for Trump’s bragging bull in a Washington shop act.

      • The Consultant

         /  April 21, 2019

        Squirrel diversions and defending the liar in chief.

        Is Far Lefter, Glen Greenwald doing this when he says that:

        “This is one of the problems that I think let the media just to go so far off the rails is that, especially those two cable networks, but also even newspapers, pretty much prohibited dissent from ever being heard so they constantly fed each other these conspiracy theories and told each other they were on the right track they advanced it further. And never really had to confront anybody who questioned or challenged them in any way.

        “I think that in a lot of ways Donald Trump broke the brains of a lot of people, particularly people in the media who believe that telling lies, inventing conspiracy theories, being journalistically reckless, it’s all justified to stop this unparalleled menace,” he said. “And that’s a good thing for an activist to think and a really bad thing for a journalist to think.”

        I’ve bolded that part because that’s almost exactly what a NYT reporter said in 2015 about “reporting” on such a terrible, horrible, awful human being as Trump. The reporter left the question hanging but there was no doubt he was going from journalist to activist. It was justified by the “unparalleled menace”

        • An interesting quote:

          “I think that in a lot of ways Donald Trump broke the brains of a lot of people, particularly people in the media who believe that telling lies, inventing conspiracy theories, being journalistically reckless, it’s all justified to stop this unparalleled menace,” he said. “And that’s a good thing for an activist to think and a really bad thing for a journalist to think.”

          It is well known that Trump tells a lot of lies, has supported and spread conspiracy theories, and has been presidentially reckless.

          You seem to think that’s a good thing, or at least acceptable or not a bad thing, because others do it too.

          I think the president should set standards of good, not bad behaviour.

          • The Consultant

             /  April 21, 2019

            You seem to think that’s a good thing, or at least acceptable or not a bad thing, because others do it too.

            Oh I don’t think it’s a good thing, but yes, I think it is acceptable given the modern media and political environment. I saw McCain get trashed as a piece of scum and then I saw the same things done to Romney, so lesson learned. Marquis of Queensbury rules don’t work.

            Trump understood that and fought in exactly they way those men did not, and he won, which is really what this has always been about. And unlike Bush he has continued to fight like this in office, precisely as Bush-the-pinata did not.

            I think the president should set standards of good, not bad behaviour.

            Mitt Romney would have done so – but he got so trashed that he ended up as a pathetic joke whom nobody respected – until he was needed as a comparison to Trump. Look at Mike Pence, the VP: plenty of nasty shit already being said about him, and it will increase a hundred-fold should he run for President in 2024.

            Same with Bush: I see even his reputation being resurrected so as to compare to the depths to which the Presidency has fallen. And of course we could run back through the crudities and awfulness of many modern Presidents if you like.

            • I’d rather each successive President or Prime Minister behaved and performed at least as good as the previous ones, and not substantially worse.

              if the new standard of Trump becomes seen as accceptable then I have serious concerns about the future of the US and the world.

    • Duker

       /  April 21, 2019

      “In the three hours-plus that Hillary Clinton spoke with FBI investigators about her private email server on July 2, she cited more than three-dozen things that she could not recall.”
      Trump never ‘spoke” to Mueller or his investigators

      Repeat . Trump had the entirety of his questions in written form and replied over time and with lawyers help. He access to previous documents or people to refresh his memory.
      And he claimed multiple times the ‘worlds best memory’ , another huuuuuuge lie

  3. The Consultant

     /  April 21, 2019

    Oh – and Happy Easter….


  4. The Consultant

     /  April 21, 2019


  5. The Consultant

     /  April 21, 2019

    And this interesting thought process….

    Seems even CNN is beginning to ask the obvious questions about the President on whose watch all this Russian interference happened.

    Of course to those who read something other than the NYT, WaPo, CNN and MSNBC, such questions – and also questions around the massive Chinese cyber attacks of 2012-14 – were being raised back then. Except they were dismissed as “squirrels”, “whataboutism” and “hand-waving away the real issues”, that those sources insisted be focused on.

    • Pink David

       /  April 21, 2019

      One of the biggest promoters of the whole thing was James Clapper, who was the Director of National Intelligence. It happened under his watch.

      Another promoter was John Brennan, CIA Director. It happened on his watch.

      According to the House Intelligence Committee, the ‘Russians’ spent less than $100,000 on Facebook adds to influence the election. It seems the Russians understand how to get value from their money.

      • Duker

         /  April 21, 2019

        Its not about how much spent on facebook .
        Why would Trump personally get a statement put out ( using his words) that lied about the Trump tower meeting with Russians that was claimed to be about ‘russian adoptions’
        When he was expecting dirt about Clinton from them. The security agencies have established to most that it was Russian based hackers who took out DNC email servers.

  6. MaureenW

     /  April 21, 2019

    Mike Huckabee sets Mitt Romney straight on a few things ..

    • Duker

       /  April 21, 2019

      hahahaha. Romney couldnt have been president. Full stop. Obama won both popular vote(by 5 mill) and electoral voters( +125)
      It wasnt even close

      • The Consultant

         /  April 21, 2019

        True, after Obama and his MSM minions had done with trashing Romney – a far better and more decent man than Trump – as a liar, a callous, money hungry businessman who’d trashed companies, allowed a woman to die from cancer, tied a dog to his car roof, and beaten up some poor young gay guy in high school. Not to mention being so stupid as to think that Russia was the US’s main geopolitical foe: “The 1980’s called and they want their foreign policy back”

        Oh how we laughed at that.

        And that followed on from the 2008 trashing of “senile warmonger” McCain and the even nastier trestment of Sarah Palin (contrast the latter with the MSM treatement of the gobsmakingly moronic things that AOC has said, or Ilhan Omar)

        You see why Trump supporters take no notice now? They’ve heard it all before about every GOP candidate from the Democrats and the MSM, who simply parrot the Dem talking points.

        • the 2008 trashing of “senile warmonger” McCain

          1999: “He was captured … Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure”.

          2015: “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July of 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.

          2016: “The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!”

          2019: “Spreading the fake and totally discredited Dossier ‘is unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain’:, “So it was indeed (just proven in court papers) ‘last in his class’ (Annapolis) John McCain that sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election,” he wrote on Sunday. “He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!”

          “There’s no low with him,” John Weaver, who was a political adviser to Mr. McCain, said in an interview. “There’s no bottom.”

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  April 21, 2019

            McCain’s legacy is what it is.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 21, 2019

              Trump wasn’t captured because he had sore feet that kept him out. I don’t blame him for not wanting to go, I do blame him for blackguarding those who did. What an insult to POWs. He’d be better to keep quiet and not draw attention to the fact that he somehow managed to be exempted for having an easily treatable foot condition. He then wished that he had a Purple Heart…yes, I’m sure that he wanted to have been wounded or killed.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  April 22, 2019

      Good to see that you get a bit of balance in you news.

  7. The Consultant

     /  April 21, 2019

    The following is beyond parody. In 1997, concerned over the gathering storm of impeachment that threatened then beloved President Clinton, a group was formed to argue that this was all just minor crap, not worthy of impeachment, and that everybody should just “Move On”. Something I agreed with at the time: the GOP were idiots in chasing this phantom.

    So much did the group like this argument that they made it the name of the group:

    And now….

    Move on? Rules for thee but not for me. Plus a lack of irony and humour.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 21, 2019

      The Dems said all those things about Trump before Mueller began his investigation.

    • The Consultant

       /  April 21, 2019

      I gave Patzcuaro an uptick for that because I pissed myself laughing at how (mainly) true it is.

      The problem for the likes of Patzcuaro and our blog host is that they still don’t understand how many Trump voters knew all this before voting for him, and will likely do so again in 2020.

      That inability and/or refusal to understand what’s really going on here, lies at the failure to understand Trump’s victory in 2016 and now this, and if the US Left continue to fail to understand these deeper currents it’s just going to lead to greater catastrophes for them in future – including if they get some sort of “dream” candidate/winner in a future POTUS election.

      • “That inability and/or refusal to understand what’s really going on here, lies at the failure to understand Trump’s victory in 2016 and now this”

        There’s a lot of things going on in relation to Trump, as there was when he got elected. He has substantial core support, but nowhere near enough to get him re-elected. And almost certainly some will be disappointed and disillusioned with what he has done or failed to do so far. He has not exactly been a raging success so far, too much raging and too little action.

        A lot will depend on whether the Democrats can come up with a credible candidate.

        And I wouldn’t rule out the Republicans seriously considering dumping Trump as a candidate for re-election.

        • Duker

           /  April 21, 2019

          ” Republicans seriously considering dumping Trump as a candidate for re-election.”

          impossible . The activist base who vote in primaries wouldnt allow it. Who with standing would possibly stand against him. ?
          All the Never Trumps failed when he was only a businessman , as a sitting president wont even try., I dont think historically thats ever happened in the modern era.

        • Patzcuaro

           /  April 22, 2019

          Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball on primary challenges to sitting Presidents:

          — President Trump remains a huge favorite to win renomination as the Republican presidential nominee, although he will have at least some opposition.

          — The New Hampshire primary has historically tested the strength of presidential incumbents.

          — In the primary’s modern history, incumbents who won easy victories went on to renomination and reelection, while those who struggled lost in the fall or didn’t run again.

          — That said, we’re only talking about a dozen total contests, so don’t make any strong predictions based on the president’s New Hampshire showing. But depending on the circumstances, Trump’s eventual performance may provide some clues for the general election”