President Trump and his advisers took a victory lap Wednesday, exulting that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s anticlimactic testimony on the Russia probe backfired on Democrats badly enough to boost the president’s reelection chances and even help Republicans pick up House seats next year.
Hours after Mr. Mueller concluded his stumbling, widely panned appearances in front of two Democrat-controlled House committees, Mr. Trump emerged from the White House to declare the televised spectacle couldn’t have gone better for him and the GOP.
“This was a very big day for our country, this was a very big day for the Republican Party,” the president told reporters. “And you could say it was a very great day for me, although I don’t like to say that.”
Ahead of Mr. Mueller’s highly anticipated testimony, the president had been railing that the hearings would be unfair to him and he wouldn’t watch them. After they were over, it was clear he did watch, and Mr. Trump said House Democrats miscalculated.
“This was a devastating day for the Democrats,” the president said. “The Democrats had nothing. And now they have less than nothing.”
Many Democrats were hoping that Mr. Mueller’s account of his two-year-long investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election would provide momentum for an impeachment inquiry. Instead, Mr. Trump and his advisers believe the partisan lead balloon will cost Democrats seats in the House next year.
“I think they’re going to lose the 2020 election, very big, including congressional seats, because of the path that they chose,” the president said. “The Democrats thought they could win an election like this. I think they hurt themselves very badly for 2020.”
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, tweeted that the “second most pleased person today should be the guy in charge of Republicans winning back the House next year.”
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the hearings were “a disaster for Democrats.”
“This entire spectacle has always been about the Democrats trying to undo the legitimate result of the 2016 election and today they again failed miserably,” Mr. Parscale said. “Robert Mueller confirmed what we already knew: No collusion, no obstruction, and the way President Trump has been treated is unprecedented.”
As the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing ended, White House secretary Stephanie Grisham called it “an epic embarrassment for the Democrats.”
The president seemed particularly focused on Mr. Mueller’s conclusion in his report, released in April, that the investigation did not exonerate Mr. Trump of possible obstruction of justice. On Wednesday, Mr. Mueller eventually clarified that his investigators did not reach a determination of whether the president committed a crime, and said it wasn’t because of guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel that sitting presidents can’t be indicted.
Mr. Trump pushed back heatedly at reporters who questioned the issue of exoneration.
“There is no such a thing,” the president said. “He didn’t have the right to exonerate.”
For the president, who has been living with the investigation since before his inauguration, the six hours of hearings validated his long-held belief that he and his aides and family have been the victims of a “witch hunt.”
“We’ve done a great job, and we’ve done it under this terrible, phony cloud,” the president said.
Mr. Trump said the 74-year-old Mr. Mueller “did a horrible job” in his testimony.
“But in all fairness to Robert Mueller, he had nothing to work with,” the president, 73, said.
As he left the White House on Wednesday evening for a fundraiser in West Virginia, the president was asked whether he believes the Democrats will abandon their investigations of him.
“I know them too well — they’ll never give up,” Mr. Trump said. “They’ll go back into the room and try and figure something out.”