The White House pushed back Wednesday on the notion that President Donald Trump obstructed justice with a morning tweet saying Attorney General Jeff Sessions should “stop” the Justice Department’s Russia election meddling probe “right now.”
“The president is not obstructing, he’s fighting back,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “He’s certainly expressing the frustration,” he has long felt over “corruption” by former Justice Department officials like former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, she said.
(Sanders is not an attorney. And she did not explain how she reached that conclusion.)
Watch: Trump's Tweets, Shutdown Threats Muddy the Waters Less Than 100 Days From Midterms
The latter comment appeared a further attempt by the Trump camp to discredit any Justice Department official involved in the investigation, including Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, who is leading it.
“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump tweeted at 9:24 a.m. during his “executive time” in the White House residence.
That sounded to many of the president’s critics like an official order to a member of his Cabinet to stop Mueller’s work — or Trump would find someone willing to.
“Fire Mueller and we fire you,” countered House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.
Fire Mueller and we fire you. https://t.co/MLHrJDFwKu— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) August 1, 2018
Norm Eisen, chief White House ethics officer under President Barack Obama warned the “ax could fall on the Mueller investigation at any time.”
Friends, please get ready by signing up at https://t.co/cWT8vQ6kVi. The ax could fall on the Mueller investigation at any time and then it will be up to you to save our rule of law. https://t.co/MggcX5B4Mz— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) August 1, 2018
But Trump’s top spokeswoman rejected the idea that the president directed his attorney general to do anything — if he even could as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is overseeing Mueller’s work since Sessions recused himself due to contacts with a senior Russian diplomat he had as a GOP Alabama senator who was advising the Trump campaign.
“It’s not an order. It’s the president’s opinion,” Sanders said. “And it’s ridiculous that all of the corruption and dishonesty that’s gone on with the launching of the witch hunt.
“The president has watched this process play out but he also wants to see it come to an end, as he’s stated many times,” she said. “And we look forward to that happening.”
Sanders has not yet responded to an inquiry seeking clarification on how White House officials can consider Trump’s tweets official presidential statements while not treating directions to Cabinet officials on the social media platform as direct orders.
White House officials and Trump have long said it is time for Mueller to end his probe, present his findings to Congress and return to private life. The president’s tweet was merely reiterating that his camp wants the investigation over “sooner rather than later,” Sanders said.
Trump’s tweet came just days after the New York Times reported the special counsel is examining the president’s tweets as part of a potential obstruction of justice case.