WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday renewed his call for an end to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference — a demand that comes just days after widespread criticism over his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin forced him to reaffirm the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that meddling had indeed occurred.
Trump, in a series of Monday morning tweets, cited a recently released warrant application used by the FBI to wiretap his former campaign aide Carter Page, to argue that a dossier, compiled by a former British spy and paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party was used to improperly obtain the warrant. Trump argued the investigation into Page eventually led to “the totally conflicted and discredited Mueller Witch Hunt!”
The president’s tweets did not mention that the more than 400 pages of heavily redacted documents released Saturday following a lawsuit by several media organizations showed that besides the so-called Steele dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the FBI also relied on its own intelligence to also request permission to wiretap Page in October 2016.
FBI officials stated in their request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, “has relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,” and investigators believed he had “been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”
Page, who has not been charged with any crime since coming under scrutiny two years ago, repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing.
The FBI also acknowledged in its application that Steele was hired by people “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” then-candidate Trump, but said they deemed Steele’s information “credible.”
Trump also did not mention in his tweets that his firing of former FBI Director James Comey last May, and Comey’s allegations that Trump privately attempted to intervene in the direction of the investigation, are what ultimately led the Department of Justice to appoint Mueller to lead the Russia probe.
The president’s renewed call to end the Mueller probe follows a tumultuous week in which he first accepted Putin’s denial of Russian election hacking during a joint news conference in Helsinki, sparking bipartisan condemnation. Trump, two days later, said he misspoke, telling reporters at the White House he meant to say he did not see a reason why it “wouldn’t” be Russia behind the election intrusions.
By Sunday, Trump returned to calling the Russia probe a “big hoax” on Twitter.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday, Trump was calling the notion of any collusion between his campaign aides and Russian operatives a hoax.
“Obviously the president is talking about the collusion with his campaign,” Sanders said during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.” “He’s been very clear that there wasn’t any. I think he’s said it about 1,000 times.”