Updated 1:14 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Wednesday took direct aim at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, saying his coming report is illegitimate because he was not elected by the American people.
“No collusion, no collusion. It’s interesting that a man gets appointed by a deputy he writes a report. Never figured that one out,” Trump said mockingly.
Yet, even while Trump used brief remarks as he departed the White House for an economic speech in Ohio to try and discredit Mueller’s probe and report, the president said “I don’t mind” if the Justice Department releases the former FBI chief’s findings about Russian 2016 election interference and possible coordination with his campaign.
“I won an election with 63 million votes,” he said. “And I’m saying to myself, ‘Wait a minute. I just won one of the greatest election of all time ... and now I have somebody writing a report.’”
Trump said he has “no idea” when the report will be released, and said the decision will be up to Attorney General William Barr.
Mueller’s probe also is reportedly looking into whether the president interfered with Mueller’s probe or the DOJ one that preceded it. On that issue, Trump on Wednesday said there was “no obstruction, there was nothing.”
Trump also opted to respond to a question about his recent war of tweets with conservative attorney George Conway, husband of senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Trump stood on the South Lawn and called his employee’s husband a “whack job,” but despite sending him a letter after a 2006 favor involving Trump Tower, insisted “I really don’t know him.”
The president also danced around questions about trade talks with China and the European Union, saying he won’t raise tariffs on European-made automobiles if the union will negotiate a “fair” trade deal with the United States.
And, in another unique moment of his presidency, Trump came to the mini-press conference with a visual aid in the form of two maps of Syria.
One showed territory controlled by the Islamic State group on Election Night 2016. It was covered in red to show ISIS positions. The second showed Syria today, and was mostly White — save one red speck that Trump said “will be gone by tonight.”
Eager to paint himself as tougher on the violent extremist group than former President Barack Obama as he heads into his 2020 re-election fight, the president said: “That’s the way it goes.”