WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s strategist warned him not to fire FBI director James Comey. His advisors told him to stop tweeting about the Russia investigation. And his lawyers encouraged him to cooperate. Trump ignored them all, and could still claim vindication Thursday after the Mueller report cleared him of collusion charges. He beat back the investigation that threatened his presidency with constant attacks on investigators and the media, a canny narrative that denied obvious facts, nonstop trolling of opponents on Twitter, and a crafty legal stall. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USIt was hugely risky, but it appears to have paid off — notwithstanding further investigations Congressional Democrats have promised into Trump’s alleged abuse of his authority. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday ruled that Trump’s campaign did not criminally conspire with Russians to skew the 2016 election, and drew no conclusion on allegations of obstruction. That allowed Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General Bill Barr to declare the president fully cleared. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential polls”As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION – NO OBSTRUCTION!” Trump tweeted in a fist-pump of victory. Trump began his campaign well before Mueller arrived, denying during 2016 that Russia was interfering in the election, even though US spy chiefs said they were. He could have just accepted it, but the claim marred his election victory. So he called it “fake news” and said the intelligence community was out to undermine him. He made things worse in May 2017 when, angered by the ongoing probe into Russian meddling, he fired Comey. The result was Mueller’s appointment to lead the Russia investigation, expanding it to include obstruction of justice. “This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” Trump said that day, according to Mueller’s report. But the next day, he switched gears into offense, launching a grinding public relations war guided mostly by his own instincts. “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” he tweeted. It was pure Trump style — weaving a narrative that struck a chord with his supporters and riled his opponents. The Russia allegations were a hoax, he alleged, Democrats were trying to avenge Hillary Clinton’s election defeat, and Comey and Mueller were corrupt. With Fox News, influential with the political right, echoing his claims, voters who formed Trump’s electoral base bought the story of a “witch hunt.” Trump often proved his own enemy. His staff struggled to block his orders to remove Mueller, which could have resulted in impeachment. His constant attacks on Mueller’s investigators, the Justice Department, and potential witnesses against him bolstered the allegations of obstruction. And his legal team was in constant turmoil, wrestling with a client who didn’t follow advice or tell them the truth. Early members of the team wanted to cooperate with Mueller, seeing that as the president’s best option. But for Trump, it was not about law, but image, and the best approach was guerilla warfare fought through the media and Twitter. With Mueller’s investigators closing in on the White House in early 2018, Trump churned his team, recruiting attorneys who would fight back. He hired Rudy Giuliani, a fellow New Yorker who like Trump saw the challenge as a street fight. Giuliani fed reporters tidbits behind the scenes and went on television with tactical denials and counterattacks that may have had little real substance but supported Trump’s claim that he was under political assault.