White House

Trump: Barr will decide if Mueller testifies, Kerry should face charges

‘I’m the one who tempers him,’ president says of hawkish John Bolton

President Donald Trump arrives at the Capitol on March 14 as, from left, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., look on. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Whether or not special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will testify before Congress about his Russia election meddling report will be left to Attorney General William P. Barr, President Donald Trump said Thursday.

The president appeared to contradict himself just days after a Sunday tweet that included this statement: “Bob Mueller should not testify.” Trump wrote that day that the former FBI director testifying before Democrat-run House committees would amount to the opposition party trying to invent evidence of negative information about him.

“No redos for the Dems!” Trump wrote Sunday.

But by Thursday, the president had returned to his original position on the issue.

“I’m going to leave that up to our very great attorney general,” he told reporters during another impromptu White House Q&A session following a health care event. “He’ll make a decision on that.”

[Trump says China would best Buttigieg even as his own trade talks slow]

Trump then again incorrectly stated that Mueller’s report “fully exonerated” him. The report, however, states that the special counsel was unable to clear the president on obstruction of justice.

“There was no crime,” Trump said again. “It was a witch hunt.”

Democrats in Congress strongly disagree, as their investigations of Trump’s Russia connections and questions about obstruction of justice continue with relations between the two sides worsening.

For instance, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler say the actions of Trump and Barr — including claiming executive privilege to block Congress from seeing a completely unredacted version of Mueller’s report — amount to a “constitutional crisis.”

“President Trump has taken a series of actions over his two years as president where he has genuinely pushed the boundaries, across a whole range of things: criticizing sitting federal court judges, the way he talks about the media, and now the way that he is challenging the power of Congress,” Senate Judiciary member Chris Coons said Wednesday.

“He’s done this previously, in terms of spending decisions, he’s done it in other ways, in terms of the reach and scope of his executive orders,” the Delaware Democrat told CNN.

A day after the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to get additional testimony, the president said his son did nothing wrong.

“The Mueller report came out, that’s the Bible,” Trump said, contending it failed to implicate his son in any crime.

In what became one part a mini-press conference and another part political rally, the president addressed a range of topics in his signature candid fashion.

[Are Democrats using quest for unredacted Mueller report as shield against impeachment?]

Trump expressed confidence in national security adviser John Bolton amid several foreign policy crises, while noting he often “tempers” his hawkish aide.

“John’s very good. He has strong views on things, which is OK,” the president said. “I’m the one who tempers him, which is okay. I have John Bolton and I have people who are a little more dovish than him.”

One of those crises is North Korea, which U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials say fired two missiles overnight. Trump called them “short-range missiles.”

“Nobody’s happy about it,” he said, adding that his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “continues.” But the president poured cold water on the notion that the two countries are nearing a nuclear disarmament pact: “I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate.”

Ahead of the early evening resumption of trade talks with China in Washington, Trump sounded hopeful even as his top negotiators have said Beijing is backing away from the emerging pact.

“I think it’ll be a very strong day, frankly,” he said of the evening meeting. “It was their idea to come back.”

He said Chinese President Xi Jinping just sent him a “beautiful letter” that indicated a desire to work together.

In the session’s most Trumpian moment, the president again suggested his Justice Department should investigate a former Obama administration official.

“He should be prosecuted for that,” Trump said of former Secretary of State John Kerry, referring to conversations the longtime Massachusetts Democratic senator has had with Iranian officials since Trump took office. “He violated the Logan Act.”

He was referring to a 1799 law that makes it a criminal offense for an unauthorized person to have contact with a foreign government “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States,” according to the U.S. Code.

Trump often makes such public pronouncements without the DOJ launching investigations.

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