Washington (CNN)-"Are there any Russians here?"
With that mocking cry, delivered from the bosom of an adoring West Virginia crowd, President Donald Trump offered the most explicit glimpse yet of how he plans to cope with the spreading net of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
"Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign, there never were. We didn't win because of Russia, we won because of you," Trump said at a raucous campaign rally.
The President offered a political argument -- not a legal one -- for why the Russia story was "a total fabrication" on a day of dizzying revelations about the probe, that heaped fresh pressure on his beleaguered White House.
Trump's rhetoric and behavior have often defied prediction and logic, and history suggests his comparatively moderate approach on Thursday night could yet be followed by a scorching tweet storm or an assault on Mueller's character and position.
But Trump's apparently scripted remarks in a context when he has often careened into improvisation and off the political reservation, may also be a hint that he just may be ready to take care of the politics, and let his legal team handle his defense in a case in which he insists he has nothing to hide.
Trump's defiant yet calibrated message followed significant breaking news on Thursday over Mueller's probe into allegations of collusion between Trump campaign aides and Moscow, that once again electrified Washington.
First came a report by The Wall Street Journal that Mueller had convened a grand jury in a sign that his panel is expanding and making progress.
CNN then weighed in with a special report, detailing how Mueller's team had seized on financial ties between Trump and associates and Russia as one of the best ways to drive the investigation forward.
Trump had previously warned in an interview with the New York Times that Mueller would cross a red line if he delved into his family's financial records.
Then, capping a frenzied afternoon, Reuters reported that Mueller's team had issued subpoenas in connection with the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., top campaign aides and a Russian lawyer.
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