President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has not seen Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report, but again falsely claimed it “fully exonerated” him.
The president’s comments came one day after Attorney General William P. Barr declined to tell a House subcommittee whether the White House has been provided a copy of the report on Russia’s 2016 election meddling and whether Trump obstructed justice in trying to stop or interfere with the probe.
“I have not read the Mueller report. I haven’t seen the Mueller report,” Trump said as he headed to Marine One for a fundraising trip to Texas, and an energy infrastructure speech. He said he is now “off to deal with all of the problems in the world,” listing China and Venezuela as examples.
Wednesday is the deadline House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, of Massachusetts, set for IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. Rettig is scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance Committee at 10:15 a.m.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig was asked by Democratic Georgia Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. during Tuesday’s House Appropriations Financial Services subcommittee hearing on the IRS budget: “If anybody’s tax return is under audit is there a rule that would prohibit that taxpayer from releasing it?”
Rettig, who Neal’s letter was addressed to, said, “No.”
Watch: Barr on Mueller memo: ‘The letter speaks for itself’
The president claimed he no longer cares about Mueller’s findings —which Barr summarized to Congress in a four-page letter that Democrats have dubbed misleading and incomplete — because it “fully exonerated” him.
Only, it doesn’t. At least on the obstruction matter.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller wrote in his report, according to Barr, who says he could be ready to release a redacted version within the next six days.
The misleading statement is just the latest for Trump, who has uttered over 9,400 false or misleading statements since taking office, according to the Washington Post.
“What I’m most interested in … is going back to the origins of how this got started,” he said of FBI and Obama administration officials who launched what became the Mueller investigation. He again accused them of “treason,” but did not say he has ordered the Justice Department to begin a formal probe; his criticism of those individuals also is a big applause line at rallies, and he appears to make it one of his 2020 campaign themes.
He appeared to utter yet another misleading remark minutes later when he claimed his administration is building “new wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border, even acknowledging that those structures are nearly replacing old ones.
He also defended White House domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller, who has drawn criticism from members of both parties since Trump pushed out several top Department of Homeland Security officials, including outgoing Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He called Miller, seen as the maestro of the purge, an “excellent” person but Trump claimed he is the one making decisions on immigration and staffing.
Democratic lawmakers and immigration analysts note the replacement barrier was planned before he took office; the White House says Trump is the one who got funding for the replacement structures.
House Democrats are moving to try and force the IRS to release his tax returns, but Trump remained defiant Wednesday morning. He told reporters he would release his tax returns if he were not under audit, but won’t, since he claims he is.
The IRS has long declined to comment on whether he is indeed being audited. “Frankly, the people don’t care,” he said of voters who elected him despite his withholding the returns in 2016. “My finances are very clean.”
Trump also congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his apparent reelection win, claiming a Middle East peace deal is more likely with him remaining in office. Palestinian leaders and some analysts disagree, however.
“The fact that BiBi won, I think that we’ll see some pretty good action, in terms of peace,” Trump said. “Everyone said you can’t have peace in the Middle East. … Now, I think we have a better chance since BiBi won.”