President Donald Trump has lashed out 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 on Friday, 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.
"Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue," Trump wrote, adding that some were "total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad)."
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.
The reaction was not entirely surprising and had been something staffers feared in the days ahead of the report's release as they wondered how Mueller might portray their testimony and whether the report might damage their relationships with Trump.
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 on 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.
The accounts prompted Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who has sometimes clashed with Trump, to release a statement saying he was "sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President".
"Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders," he said.
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."
Australian Associated Press