Politics

Trump Warns Mueller’s Team Will Meddle in Midterms

Remarkable charge comes with GOP House, Senate majorities in jeopardy

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump warned Tuesday that there will be interference in November’s midterm congressional elections — but he said the meddling would be conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his Justice Department team.

The president also acknowledged he has been spending a lot of time and energy on the special counsel’s probe of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Moscow and whether the president obstructed justice. He has previously denied it has been a distraction.

The allegation — which Trump did not support with evidence — was a remarkable one coming from a sitting U.S. president, and comes with control of both the House and Senate for the remainder of his term on the line. Most reputable polling outfits predict Democrats have a legitimate chance of controlling both chambers in the next Congress.

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Trump described Mueller and his team as “13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama),” writing he expects Comey’s staff “will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls.”

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates 184 House races in the “solid and continuing Democrats” column and 174 as solid for Republicans. The remainder are either in the toss-up column or leaning toward one of the parties. Those ratings put 16 of the cycle’s Senate races in the “solid” Democratic column and five in the GOP’s, with seven ranked as toss-ups and a handful leaning either red or blue.

Trump also — likely inadvertently — handed his Democratic critics fodder on Tuesday morning when he signaled the special counsel probe has taken up a healthy chunk of his time since he took office.

He wrote that he has “got to start focusing my energy on North Korea Nuclear, bad Trade Deals, VA Choice, the Economy, rebuilding the Military, and so much more, and not on the Rigged Russia Witch Hunt that should be investigating Clinton/Russia/FBI/Justice/Obama/Comey/Lynch etc.”

Trump and top surrogates inside and outside the White House in recent weeks have been trying to undermine the Mueller-led probe, saying it was formed for illegitimate — and possibly illegal — reasons. They also have publicly questioned whether James B. Comey, the FBI director Trump fired, later admitting the Russia probe was on his mind when he did so, is a credible witness. (Comey has already spoken to Mueller’s team.)

Several House Intelligence Committee Democrats over the weekend urged voters to choose their candidates in November to provide a check against a president they claim is challenging constitutional norms by regularly dinging the special counsel probe and witnesses.

The panel’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, told ABC News on Sunday that voters should “throw the bums out,” referring to incumbent Republicans lawmakers.

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“As long as there’s a majority in Congress that is willing to do this president’s will, and as long as we have a deeply unethical president, there’s only one remedy,” Schiff said.

Another House Intelligence Democrat, Eric Swalwell of California, on Monday said Schiff “was probably being kind to them.”

“You’re actually worse than bums if you don’t stand up to a president attacking a former FBI director, a patriot who served our country in Vietnam like Bob Mueller,” he said. “You’re worse than a bum if you are allowing the president to cash in in the Oval Office and put Chinese workers ahead of the American workers when your company is taking a 500 million dollar loan from Indonesia. You are worse than a bum allowing your daughter to receive trademarks from the Chinese while you’re executing trade deals.”

He was referring to Trump’s vow to Chinese President Xi Jinping to save ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications firm brought to the brink of collapse after U.S. penalties for violating sanctions and trademarks Ivanka Trump reportedly was granted in China days before her father’s vow to spare the company.

But on Tuesday morning, senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway said the comments by Schiff and Swalwell show a Democratic Party that is “flailing.” During a Fox News interview, she said Democrats have “no message” and “nothing positive to say.”

Watch: Rubio Leads Chorus of Lawmakers Critical of Trump’s Trade Talks With China

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