Trump Criticizes Ongoing House Probe of Russian Election Meddling

President also says Freedom Caucus found way to 'snatch defeat from the jaws of victory'

President Donald Trump used a series of Monday night tweets to question a House panel's probe of potential ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump used a series of Monday night tweets to question a House panel's probe of potential ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Posted March 28, 2017 at 7:51am

Updated at 8:27 a.m. President Donald Trump used a Monday night Twitter tirade to question the ongoing House investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, showing little concern that his comments might taint the probe.

Previous presidents have been careful to avoid creating any perception that they are using the powers or political heft of the office to influence congressional or federal law enforcement investigations. Trump’s top spokesman, Sean Spicer, has mostly done the same when asked about separate probes being conducted by the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

But Trump appeared to call the credibility and thoroughness of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation into question with a series of tweets he posted around 9:30 p.m. And he didn’t stop there, next turning his social media sights on the conservative House Freedom Caucus and congressional Democrats.

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Trump first asked why the House panel is not examining a decision that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, was involved in that “allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.” The tweet-delivered attack appeared to be a reference to an international deal that allowed Moscow’s nuclear agency to purchase a majority stake in a Canadian company that controlled nearly a quarter of all uranium in the United States.

And mindful of his base’s disdain for the 42nd president, Trump threw in Bill Clinton’s name.

Trump then suggested the House Intelligence Committee include the former secretary of state’s work under the Obama administration’s attempted “reset” of relations with Russia in its investigation, while also advising it look into Bill Clinton’s paid speeches.

Ever one to get the most out of 140 characters, the president then showed he has been following right-wing media outlets recent reports about John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief and Bill Clinton’s onetime chief of staff.

Outlets like Breitbart reported Monday that Podesta might have failed to disclose 75,000 common shares of Joule Unlimited, a Russian company, that he received as a member of its executive board. Breitbart’s report featured a headline suggesting the Democratic Party insider might have violated federal law by failing to disclose on his federal financial disclosure forms.

The president then labeled the entire situation involving allegations a “hoax.”

But House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Senate Intelligence ranking member John Warner, D-Va., would beg to differ. Both have suggested there is fire behind the smoke of possible Russia-Trump ties.

Based on information he has seen as part of his panel’s probe, Schiff recently said there is “more than circumstantial evidence” to suggest collusion between Russian officials and senior Trump campaign aides. And though he declined to offer specifics due to the panel’s ongoing investigation, Warner said Sunday he is “doubly” sure the probe is the most important thing in his career. He cited the information he has obtained since the investigation started.

The tweets further complicate and cast doubt on whether the House committee can conduct a truly objective investigation with outcomes that are treated as credible. On Monday evening, after panel Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., acknowledged he last week went to the White House grounds to review documents related to the campaign that he briefed Trump on the following day, Schiff and other top Democrats called on Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.

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Though Nunes declined, to have the vice chairman of a national security panel call for the chairman to step aside is almost unheard of in Washington.

Though some dismiss the presidential tweets as a collective distraction, Trump’s words have an impact on everything from ongoing investigations to confirmation hearings to federal court cases to his top aides’ policymaking and messaging. In short, the tweets, by definition, reflect the 45th president’s thinking and are part of his political tactics.

The president then set about criticizing the House Freedom Caucus, which on Friday, along with skeptical GOP moderates, helped to kill the Republican-crafted measure to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. Trump has mostly opted against publicly blaming the moderates, likely because he needs them to pass just about any future legislation. He has blamed the HFC and Democrats, saying the former “saved Planned Parenthood” and the latter now own the 2010 law should it collapse.

He wrote that the conservative faction “was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” adding the HFC has had “so many bad years.”

But Freedom Caucus members largely have sought to cast blame on House Republican leaders and their handling of the process. And the group’s leader, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., is “analyzing” just one player in the health bill’s demise.

“I’ve spent the last 48 hours probably analyzing a whole lot of different situations, but the main person I’ve analyzed has been the person that’s stared back in the mirror,” Meadows said Monday evening.

“That’s all I can be responsible for, and so in looking at this – I’m a deal maker. And I didn’t produce a deal,” he said before a Freedom Caucus meeting. “And so with that, I’ve got to figure out what I’ve got to do differently to produce a deal.” Notably, after the meeting, Meadows signaled a willingness to be more flexible as lawmakers try to hammer out a government-funding bill by April 28.

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., on Friday told reporters the bill broke down because not enough members were consulted in the drafting process.

“You’ve got to have everybody participating in the first instance in drafting this legislation,” Brooks said, adding the episode should not reflect poorly on Trump, who did all he could to move the bill forward.

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Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, also a HFC member, criticized GOP leaders for writing the legislation behind closed doors and not allowing a committee amendment process.

“The president did everything he could do,” Gohmert said Friday. “It was a bad bill.”

Trump ended the Monday night Twitter blast with a prediction that congressional Democrats will come to the negotiating table “as soon as ObamaCare folds,” which he wrote will happen “not long” from now. For that reason, he declared, with an extra space, the administration in “very good shape!”

When the president rose in the White House residence on Tuesday morning, it was back to Twitter.

First, he tweeted a “big announcement” is coming from the Ford Motor Company on Tuesday.

“Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S.,” he wrote, before signing off with this campaign-like line: “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” Then he told his followers to tune in to a Fox News Channel morning show to watch its take on the Podesta-Russia issue.

Trump appears to have a few more hours to post on social media. He is not due to get his daily intelligence briefing until 10:30 a.m., according to the White House.

—Lindsey McPherson, Niels Lesniewski and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.