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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump & Co. sound less assured when painting the Russia probe as spurious 

Michael Cohen with Donald Trump on May 11,

Michael Cohen with Donald Trump on May 11, 2011. The president's former lawyer has agreed to testify before a House committee. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo / Orjan Ellingvag

The Trump team sounds increasingly fearful of losing its 20-month fight to stymie and discredit special counsel Robert Mueller.

Last week, Rudy Giuliani, the TV-hungry surrogate for President Donald Trump, told The Hill that the legal defense team should get a chance to "correct" Mueller's final report before the public gets to see it. 

“As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you — so we can correct it if they’re wrong,” Giuliani said. “They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong.” 

This is a bit like demanding video review before the play is even called.

Also last week, it was revealed that a beefed-up bevy of White House legal advisers was ready to try to keep Trump's confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House investigators and revealed in the Mueller report.

The question is whether revealing details of those discussions might in theory make the president look venal or even just silly. Did Trump obstruct justice? It seems he openly sought to fix things — by firing FBI director James Comey, by saying on TV he did it over the Russia probe, by hectoring ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal, and by commenting on potential pardons for witnesses.

Also last week, an inadvertently unredacted court filing showed Mueller saying former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort  shared internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, whom authorities tie to Russian intelligence. The motive for doing this remains unclear, but, if true, it dents the credibility of the president's oft-repeated "no-collusion" chant.

Also last week, former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen agreed to testify before a House committee that fell this month to the control of Democrats. Cohen has already flipped to help federal prosecutors and implicated Trump in hush-money payoffs to women who claimed he had affairs with them.

"I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired," Cohen said in a statement.

Trump told reporters he's "not worried about it at all." But some Trump allies were doing their best to discredit Cohen well before he appears: "I think that his trustworthiness is somewhat suspect by even those who love what he says," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), for instance.

Also last week, the Russian lawyer who attended the famous Trump Tower meeting, where dirt on Hillary Clinton was on the agenda, ended up charged with obstruction of justice in a money-laundering case. As the New Yorker phrased it, this case reinforced indications that lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya "blended her work advising an ostensibly private client in with a broader campaign of interest to officials in Moscow, particularly those in the Russian general prosecutor’s office."

Published accounts over the weekend didn't help Trump's assurances to the faithful — reports that professional law enforcement thought he might be a Russian asset and that he has shielded from others in the White House his talks with President Vladimir Putin.

With the Mueller probe reportedly approaching a conclusion soon, the Russia intrigue is getting more difficult for Trump's loyalists to spin into a “nothing burger.”

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