President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe on Sunday, in a series of tweets that took direct aim at Mueller and sought to cast the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation as partisan and unfair.
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added . . . does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
Trump’s tweet directed at Mueller, a registered Republican leading a 17-member staff, came a day after the president’s personal attorney John Dowd called for an end to the special counsel’s investigation.
While the president has described the probe into purported ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign associates as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax,” Sunday’s tweet and another on Saturday describing the investigation as the “Mueller probe,” marked the first occasions Trump directly named Mueller on Twitter. Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike responded by pre-emptively calling for the special counsel to remain in place and later Sunday, the White House rejected that speculation.
Earlier Sunday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in a statement issued by his spokeswoman, said, “Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the president was attempting to undermine Mueller’s Russia probe, adding that Republicans “particularly the leadership, have an obligation to our country to stand up now and make it clear that firing Mueller is a red line for our democracy that cannot be crossed.”
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), in a phone interview said he had “questions about some of the people” on Mueller’s staff, but called Mueller himself “totally straight, totally honest, totally professional.”
“I’ve seen no evidence at all of any collusion,” King said, referring to the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee’s recent report stating it found no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in 2016. “It’s possible that Bob Mueller has information that we don’t have . . . he can’t be pushed, he should be allowed to continue it, but on the other hand I believe he has an obligation to the country . . . to give some idea, to give some sort of time frame for when he expects this investigation to end.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in an email Sunday evening said, “The Mueller investigation should come to an end after a careful review of all relevant information. However, this investigation cannot go on indefinitely.”
The speculation over Mueller’s future prompted White House lawyer Ty Cobb to issue a statement Sunday evening emphasizing that “the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
The president also continued Sunday to rail against both former FBI Director James Comey and recently fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Twitter, pushing back against their statements that they kept detailed memos of their conversations with the president. Trump called them “fake memos.”
McCabe was fired Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 48 hours before McCabe was expected to retire from the agency and collect full pension benefits. Sessions said the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended McCabe’s termination, because he had “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor,” but Democrats citing Trump’s previous critical tweets of McCabe have argued the firing was driven by Trump’s personal grievances with McCabe.
Trump dismissed the prospect of McCabe’s memos, tweeting: “Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?”
In a tweet Sunday, Trump criticized Comey, the FBI director until the president fired him in May: “Wow, watch Comey lie under oath to Senator G when asked ‘have you ever been an anonymous source . . . or known someone else to be an anonymous source . . . ?’ He said strongly ‘never, no.’ He lied as shown clearly on @foxandfriends.”
Comey told a Senate panel in June after Trump fired him that he had directed a friend to share the content of a memo he wrote regarding his interactions with Trump, to a news reporter with The New York Times, which published its contents on May 17.
On May 3, before Trump fired him, Comey responded “never” at a Senate hearing when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked whether he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?”
Comey said “no” when asked whether he had authorized “someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation.”
But Comey may not have misled the Senate panel. In June, he told the panel he provided the memo to his friend on the Monday after his firing on May 9, which would have been nearly two weeks after he initially was questioned by Grassley.