WASHINGTON, Aug 2, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Donald Trump on Wednesday told his
attorney general to end the high-profile investigation into Russian election
meddling that has ensnared key members of his presidential campaign and cast
a long shadow over his White House.
In a series of tweets that quickly sparked accusations that Trump was
publicly trying to pervert justice, the president decried the investigation
led by special counsel Robert Mueller as “a disgrace.”
“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,” Trump said.
Aides rushed to limit the damage, insisting he was not issuing an order as
“It’s not an order, it’s the president’s opinion,” White House spokeswoman
Sarah Sanders told reporters, adding that Trump wants the probe to “come to
His lawyer Rudy Giuliani added: “He used a medium he uses for opinions,
Twitter. One of the good things about using that, he’s established a clear
sort of practice now that he expresses his opinions on Twitter.
“He used the word ‘should,’ he didn’t use the word ‘must.'”
The president — along with allies in conservative media — has launched a
long PR campaign against the Mueller probe, which he claims is biased and
pursuing erroneous claims of collusion between his campaign team and Moscow.
“Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in
history, is a TOTAL HOAX,” the president said Wednesday.
Mueller — a respected former FBI director — is investigating whether the
Trump campaign aided or abetted an attempt by Russia to sway the 2016
presidential election, or tried to cover up the conspiracy.
He has so far lodged dozens of indictments, including those of suspected
Russian hackers, and secured guilty pleas from at least three Trump aides
charged with conspiracy and lying to investigators.
This was Trump’s most direct demand yet that Sessions, who infuriated the
president by recusing himself from the investigation, intervene to end the
“The President of the United States just called on his Attorney General to
put an end to an investigation in which the President, his family and
campaign may be implicated,” said Democratic congressman Adam Schiff.
“This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight. America must
never accept it.”
Even Trump’s allies questioned the demand.
“I’ve said all along I see no evidence of collusion. But if anyone helped
Russia to hack/steal they deserve justice,” said Republican operative Ari
“Let Mueller finish his job. Neither POTUS nor Sessions should interfere.
After all, nothing will help Trump more than Mueller concluding there is no
Amid the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Trump’s personal
attorneys also sought to walk back the comment, insisting the president was
not ordering Sessions to do anything.
“The president has issued no order or direction to the Department of
Justice on this,” lawyer Jay Sekulow told The Washington Post.
Giuliani added the president may be within his legal rights to obstruct
justice if he wishes.
“Under our conclusion if the president is acting within his capacity as
president and he fires someone, that can’t be questioned,” he said.
Giuliani also told reporters the president’s legal team was in the middle
of ongoing negotiations with Mueller, as a report in The Washington Post said
the special counsel had offered to reduce the number of questions in exchange
for a sit-down interview.
– In the courtroom –
Trump’s latest Twitter tirade came on the second day of the trial of former
campaign chairman Paul Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges, which stemmed
from the probe but were not directly related to his time on the campaign.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Manafort “worked for me for a very short
period of time” but sought to defend his former aide’s bona fides.
“Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly
prominent and respected political leaders,” he said.
Manafort served as Trump’s campaign chief from May to August 2016 and the
president asked Wednesday: “why didn’t government tell me that he was under
“These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!” he said.
Manafort’s trial opened Tuesday with prosecutors accusing him of hiding
from US tax authorities millions of dollars from past lobbying work for the
pro-Russia president of Ukraine, and failing to report his foreign bank
In a further tweet, Trump suggested Manafort has been harshly mistreated.
“Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary
mob boss, killer and ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ or Paul Manafort,” he wrote.
Manafort is scheduled to go on trial in September on separate charges
brought by Mueller of conspiracy, money laundering and failing to register as
an agent of a foreign government.