WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump marked the first year of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment to lead the Department of Justice’s Russia probe by railing on Twitter against the wide-reaching investigation.
“Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History . . . and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!”
In a follow-up tweet, Trump wrote: “Despite the disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt, we have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history — by far! Sorry to the Fake News Media and ‘Haters,’ but that’s the way it is!”
The president’s morning missives repeated his long-standing contention that Mueller’s investigation, into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, is a ruse meant to undermine his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in remarks delivered on the Senate floor Thursday, rebutted the president’s tweets, saying they were part of a “smear campaign” aimed at discrediting Mueller.
“It’s not a witch hunt when some of the most senior members of the Trump campaign have been indicted,” Schumer said, referring to Mueller’s indictment of four top Trump advisers in connection with the Russia probe.
Trump also took to Twitter to accuse the Obama administration of spying on his campaign — a claim that appeared to be spurred by a Thursday morning appearance on “Fox and Friends” by writer Andrew C. McCarthy, who published an article in the conservative magazine National Review last week with the heading, “Did the FBI Have a Spy In the Trump Campaign?”
Trump tweeted: “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT.’ Andrew McCarthy says, ‘There’s probably no doubt that they had at least one confidential informant in the campaign.’ If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”
Mueller, a former FBI director under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was selected to lead the Justice Department’s Russia investigation a year ago, following Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey, who had been heading the effort. The president initially blamed Comey’s ouster on his handling of the probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, but days later in a TV interview, acknowledged that the Russia probe had played a factor in his decision.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had been a Trump campaign surrogate, recused himself from the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest, prompting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller, a registered Republican, as the new head of the probe.
In the past year, Mueller has issued indictments to Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, and campaign advisers Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.
Flynn, Gates and Papadopoulos all have pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about their communications with Russia.
The special counsel’s team has also issued indictments to 13 Russian nationals accused of orchestrating social media campaigns to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Those indictments spurred the Treasury Department to level its own set of financial sanctions against the Russians.
Mueller reportedly also is examining whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice by firing Comey. Mueller has sought an interview with the president, and while Trump has said he is willing to speak to Mueller, the president’s personal legal team so far has advised him against testifying.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the latest additions to Trump’s legal team, is pushing Mueller to wrap up the probe. Giuliani contends that Mueller does not need to interview Trump because the president’s lawyers provided Mueller with documents that can answer the special counsel’s questions.
“It’s been a year; he’s gotten more than 1.4 million documents, he’s interviewed 28 witnesses and he has nothing,” Giuliani told Laura Ingraham on Fox News on Wednesday night.
Giuliani told Fox News and other media outlets on Wednesday that Mueller recently indicated to Trump’s attorneys that the special counsel’s team cannot indict a sitting president.
“All they get to do is write a report,” Giuliani told CNN. “They can’t indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us.”
The special counsel’s office has yet to confirm Giuliani’s remarks, but the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded during the administrations of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton that the Constitution prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president.
The guidelines do not prevent lawmakers from acting, should a sitting president be found of wrongdoing. The House of Representatives would be responsible for taking the special counsel’s findings and deciding whether to pursue articles of impeachment.