President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut down the Justice Department’s special counsel investigation of Russia election meddling and possible presidential obstruction of justice.
Members of both political parties have cautioned Trump to avoid such public statements, and to resist the urge to simply give Sessions an order to end former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller’s probe — or fire him and any other senior Justice Department official who refuses to and replace them with someone who will shutter the investigation.
Trump put the onus on Sessions, but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is overseeing Mueller’s work. The AG recused himself for contacts with a senior Russian diplomat he had during the 2016 campaign while still an Alabama senator who was advising the Trump campaign.
“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,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning during his “executive time” in the White House residence.
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Over the weekend, Trump fired off a tweet referring to the Mueller probe as an “illegal scam” that was founded under false pretenses. But that claim is itself false.
That’s because Trump and his supporters contend the so-called “Steele Dossier,” compiled by a former British spy and reported to contain embarrassing information about Trump, was the basis for the special counsel probe. But the investigation’s roots actually start with former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’ comments to an Australian diplomat in a bar.
Trump also in recent days has repeated his contention that the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic Party funded the dossier. But the firm that retained the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, actually got the seed money for his work from a so-far unspecified GOP donor.
In his Wednesday tweet, the president again called Mueller — who was first nominated for FBI director by GOP President George W. Bush — and his team “17 Angry Democrats” and repeated his description of the probe from his summit last month with Vladimir Putin as “a disgrace to USA!”
And he described Mueller and his staff as “totally conflicted,” repeating a charge from a weekend tweet in which he described a contentious business relationship with Mueller. So far, Trump this week has not answered reporters’ questions about that charge; he was not asked about it at a Monday joint news conference with his Italian counterpart.
But he has mentioned Mueller’s dispute over dues for a Virginia Trump golf resort at which the former FBI boss was once a member. Trump also contends he turned down Mueller as a candidate to be FBI director again just a day before Justice Department officials appointed him as special counsel.
Wednesday continued a recent string of days during which Trump has lashed out at Mueller and political foes on Twitter. On Tuesday, it was the influential conservative donor Koch brothers, and his contention that had his campaign coordinated with Russians, “collusion is not a crime.” And over the weekend, he hammered Mueller.
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