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Trump lashes out as legal risks pile up

For much of his week at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump seemed almost reserved by the standards of his Twitter feed, save for sustained attacks on former FBI Director James Comey.

But by Friday night, the president had had enough.

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In the span of 15 hours, Trump alleged that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was “established based on an illegal act,” threatened to countersue the Democratic Party, bashed a Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times reporter and called one of his former aides a “drunk/drugged up loser.”

All of this overlapped with the Saturday funeral of former First Lady Barbara Bush. While Melania Trump was due to attend the funeral, the White House said the president would not go to the ceremony “out of respect” for the Bush family. Instead, Trump spent a few hours at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Saturday morning.

He did, however, send out this message via Twitter midday: “Heading to the Southern White House to watch the Funeral Service of Barbara Bush. First Lady Melania has arrived in Houston to pay our respects. Will be a beautiful day!”

Meanwhile, Trump’s Twitter tirade diverted attention from North Korea’s Friday announcement that it’s immediately halting nuclear and missile tests, and even plans to shutter its main nuclear test facility — a major early win for the president as he seeks to negotiate a meeting with Kim Jong Un.

Trump praised the decision on Twitter late Friday, saying, “This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress!” But his subsequent tweets overshadowed the statement.

White House aides and outside advisers to the president had long expected this kind of outburst from the president during his Mar-a-Lago visit. Trump has been known to let loose during his trips to the private South Florida club, where he has more time to talk to friends who validate his concerns and to escape the regimentation of the White House.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit, which necessitated a busy schedule of bilateral meetings, kept Trump occupied and distracted for much of this week. But with Abe back in Japan and little on his public schedule this weekend, Trump has more time to obsess over the ever-expanding list of frustrations.

Chief among them this week is the fear, shared by many in Trump’s inner circle, that the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will begin cooperating with federal authorities. Facing a wide-ranging criminal investigation that could result in prison time, Cohen is seen by some Trump allies as being at risk of flipping, as POLITICO reported earlier this week.

The president appeared to be set off by a Friday New York Times story detailing Trump’s poor treatment of Cohen over the years. “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage,” Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime informal adviser, told the Times. “Ironically, Michael now holds the leverage over Trump,” former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg added in the Times story.

In response, Trump insisted on Twitter that Cohen wouldn’t flip and criticized the lead reporter on the story, Maggie Haberman, a former POLITICO reporter who just won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Trump’s allies’ ties to Russia.

“Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if…. it means lying or making up stories,” the president wrote on Twitter, apparently referencing the Times report. “Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”

Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump are pictured. | Getty Images

Federal agents raided Cohen’s office and residences on April 9 as the government reportedly probes possible criminal violations in connection to Cohen’s $ 130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign, among other things.

“The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip,’” the president wrote.

He also alleged without evidence that the Times used “non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael” to boost its story. It’s unclear exactly who Trump was referring to, but the story prominently quotes Stone and Nunberg on the record.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to an email seeking clarity on who specifically Trump is calling a “drunk/drugged up loser.” Neither Stone nor Nunberg immediately responded to requests for comment.

Haberman, who has repeatedly interviewed Trump during his time in office and is considered to be one of the most well-sourced reporters covering the White House, briefly addressed the president’s criticism.

“One B, sir (or Dan?). Here’s the story that seems to have touched a nerve,” she wrote on Twitter, pointing to an earlier version of the tweet that spelled her name wrong and hinting at the possibility that White House social media director Dan Scavino could be behind the morning missive.

Rudy Giuliani is pictured. | Getty Images

On Friday night, the president continued his broadsides against former FBI Director James Comey, who is speaking out about his relationship with the president on an ongoing book tour.

“James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Council?” Trump wrote, using the wrong spelling for special counsel. “Therefore, the Special Council was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everybody know what that means?”

Comey authorized the release of four memos, none of which were deemed to contain classified material when they were made public. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Comey made redactions of classified information in one of the memos ahead of its release and the other three were not considered to be classified at the time. But the Journal said the FBI now considers information in another one of the memos to be classified, prompting an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

The president also responded on Friday night to the Democratic National Committee’s new multi-million dollar lawsuit alleging that the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks engaged in a sweeping plot to interfere in the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

The president threatened to file a lawsuit of his own.

“Just heard the Campaign was sued by the Obstructionist Democrats,” he wrote. “This can be good news in that we will now counter for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI, the Debbie Wasserman Schultz Servers and Documents held by the Pakistani mystery man and Clinton Emails.”

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