Updated at 8:32 a.m. | President Donald Trump is contending the Justice Department is examining whether he obstructed justice because investigators were unable to prove his presidential campaign colluded with Russia.
Trump made the claim, and called the overall probe “phony,” as he often does, in a tweet around 7 a.m. Thursday. It came after some of the president’s surrogates have attempted to ding the credibility of former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is now leading the DOJ investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump never referred to Mueller or the Justice Department, tweeting “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story” but “found zero proof.” The president’s preferred narrative is investigators pivoted toward obstruction of justice instead.
In his signature sign off fashion, Trump ended the tweet by dubbing the alleged tactic by DOJ as “Nice”.
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
To that end, in a tweet sent an hour later, the president appeared to go right after Mueller’s character, saying that the Russia investigation is being “led by some very bad and conflicted people!” Trump also, as he often does, referred to the investigation as the “single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.”
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
In recent days, Trump surrogates have questioned how Mueller can lead the probe given he is friends with Comey. They also have pointed to campaign contributions some of the staff he has hired made to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Trump’s tweets started about 13 hours after a report that Mueller’s investigation had shifted to also cover possible obstruction by the president. They also came after he struck a unifying tone in prepared remarks he delivered from the White House on Wedensday about five hours after a shooting that cruticially injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
"We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country," Trump said in a tone that was gone by the next morning.
Citing unnamed “officials,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that Mueller’s investigation has taken a major turn.
No longer is he merely focused on Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, meaning he also appears to be zeroing in on Trump’s actions since taking office on Jan. 20.
The special counsel, who has moved quickly to take full control of the investigation, is reportedly interviewing what the Post described as “senior intelligence officials” as part of his probe. The investigation’s dual focus on possible obstruction began weeks before Mueller took over: shortly after May 9, when Trump fired then-FBI Director James B. Comey.
The White House on Wednesday evening declined to comment about the Post’s obstruction-of-justice report, with a spokeswoman referring a reporter to an outside counsel. Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has not responded to an email requesting comment.
His tweet also came as a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found six out of 10 Americans believe Trump obstructed justice or attempted to influence the Justice Department probe.
Comey told lawmakers last Thursday that he has concluded he was fired in part because he refused to drop the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s campaign adviser and first national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The former top cop also told the Senate Intelligence Committee that his termination seemed tied to his refusal to lift what Trump called a “cloud” hanging over his presidency, referring to the broader FBI Russia meddling probe.
Trump punched back a day later, telling reporters Comey had lied under oath, saying: “Frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”