01 Mueller Trump SPLIT
CNN  — 

President Donald Trump has spent much of the last year running down special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s attempted interference in the 2016 election.

His favorite term to describe it is “witch hunt” – as in “the single greatest Witch Hunt in American history.”

Of late, Trump has tried to nuance that blunt-force rhetorical point by insisting that his name-calling only applied to the idea that he or someone within his campaign colluded with the Russians to ensure his election.

But his past rhetoric belies that “fact.” Simply put: Trump has engaged in an aggressive effort to discredit Mueller, his team and the investigation more broadly.

On Friday, that effort got even more difficult. Rick Gates, Trump’s one-time deputy campaign chairman, pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s broader investigation.

That makes three former Trump campaign officials – Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos – to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with Mueller.

A fourth, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, faces a bevy of charges from Mueller of money laundering and bank fraud, but continues to maintain his innocence.

And then there are the 13 Russian nationals the special counsel’s office charged last Friday for their alleged involvement in a massive scheme designed to influence the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Those are all facts. Neither the media nor Democrats forced Gates, Flynn and Papadopoulos to plead guilty and cut deals to cooperate with Mueller. Ditto the charges against Manafort and the Russians.

The Point: Trump can claim the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt” until the cows come home. Some people will believe him. But the mounting charges and guilty pleas suggest otherwise.