FILE - In this June 7, 2017 file photo, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday, March 16, 2018, that he has fired former FBI Deputy Director McCabe, a longtime and frequent target of President Donald Trump’s anger, just two days before his scheduled retirement date. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - In this June 7, 2017 file photo, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday, March 16, 2018, that he has fired former FBI Deputy Director McCabe, a longtime and frequent target of President Donald Trump’s anger, just two days before his scheduled retirement date. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

A frustrated Trump lashes out at special counsel Mueller

In a series of weekend tweets naming Mueller for the first time, Trump criticized the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

President Donald Trump on Sunday took out his frustrations over the intensifying Russia investigation by lashing out at special counsel Robert Mueller, signalling a possible shift away from a strategy of co-operating with a probe he believes is biased against him.

In a series of weekend tweets naming Mueller for the first time, Trump criticized the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and raised fresh concerns about the objectivity and political leanings of the members of Mueller’s team.

Trump also challenged the honesty of Andrew McCabe, the newly fired FBI deputy director, and James Comey, the bureau’s former director whom Trump fired last year over the Russia probe.

The president’s aggressive stance followed a call Saturday by his personal lawyer for Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general and who now oversees Mueller’s inquiry, to “bring an end” to that investigation.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, which spent the past year conducting a parallel investigation, recently said they had drafted a report concluding no collusion or co-ordination between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. Committee Democrats vehemently disagreed.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” Trump was referring to a dossier of anti-Trump research funded by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Likely adding to Trump’s growing frustration, The New York Times reported last week that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization and requested Russia-related documents. Trump had said Mueller would cross a red line with such a step.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Trump tweeted Sunday.

Related: 13 Russians charged in Mueller investigation

Some of Mueller’s investigators indeed have contributed to Democratic political candidates, but Justice Department policy and federal service law bar discrimination in the hiring of career positions on the basis of political affiliation. Mueller is a Republican.

A deeply frustrated Trump has fumed to confidants that the Mueller probe is “going to choke the life out of” his presidency if allowed to continue unabated indefinitely, according to an outside adviser who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations with the president.

Trump has long believed that the entrenched bureaucracy, particularly at the Justice Department and FBI, is out to thwart him, and has pointed to McCabe’s wife’s associations with Democrats, including longtime Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe, as an example. He also fumed to one confidant after seeing a promotion for Comey’s forthcoming book, and believes the former FBI director will seek to enrich himself by besmirching Trump’s reputation. Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” topped Amazon.com’s bestseller list on Sunday.

The president has long been torn over how to approach the Mueller probe. Trump insists that his campaign did not collude with Russia, and his legal team, namely attorney Ty Cobb, has counselled the president to co-operate with Mueller. But some former campaign advisers have urged Trump to be combative, warning him that that the investigation poses an existential threat to his presidency.

Trump’s attacks raised new concerns among members of Congress that he could be seeking to orchestrate Mueller’s firing. Republican and Democratic lawmakers warned Trump to not even think about it.

Related: Mueller witness is convicted pedophile with shadowy past

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump ally.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called for the passage of bipartisan bills designed to protect Mueller that have stalled in Congress.

“This president is engaged in desperate and reckless conduct to intimidate his law enforcement agencies of this country and to try and stop the special counsel. That is unacceptable in a democracy,” Durbin said.

Trump cannot directly fire Mueller, who can only be dismissed for cause. Any dismissal of Mueller would have to be carried out by Rosenstein, who has publicly expressed his support for Mueller.

Aides and friends say they understand Trump’s frustration with an investigation that hangs over his presidency.

“When he says it’s a political witch hunt, I think he’s right,” said Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative news website Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend.

Marc Short, Trump’s congressional liaison, said the president’s frustration is “well-warranted” because “there has been no evidence whatsoever of collusion.”

Trump may have felt emboldened after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on Friday. “A great day for Democracy,” Trump tweeted afterward. Trump asserted without elaboration that McCabe, whose firing he had publicly called for, knew “all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

The Associated Press later reported that McCabe kept personal memos detailing interactions with Trump that have been provided to Mueller’s office and are similar to notes compiled by Comey. Trump sought to cast doubt on their veracity.

“Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “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?”

It wouldn’t be unusual for a senior official to make notes soon after meeting with the president.

Trump also claimed Comey lied under oath at a Senate hearing by saying he had never been an anonymous source. Comey, who is releasing a book next month, tweeted Saturday after McCabe’s firing: “Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honourable and who is not.”

The contents of McCabe’s memos are unknown, but they could help substantiate McCabe’s assertion that he was unfairly maligned by a White House he says had declared “war” on the FBI and Mueller’s investigation.

Related: Trump aides questioned in Russia probe, Trump may be up soon

Sessions said he dismissed McCabe on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials who said McCabe had not been candid with a watchdog office investigation. An upcoming inspector general’s report is expected to conclude that McCabe had authorized the release of information to the media and was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau’s handling of an investigation into Clinton’s emails.

McCabe has vigorously disputed the allegations and said his credibility had been attacked as “part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally” but also the FBI and law enforcement.

Also over the weekend, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, cited the “brilliant and courageous example” by Sessions and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility and said Rosenstein should “bring an end” to the Russia investigation “manufactured” by Comey.

In response, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said: “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”

Dowd told the AP that he wasn’t calling on Rosenstein to fire the special counsel immediately and hadn’t discussed with him the idea of dismissing Mueller or ending the probe. Dowd also said he was speaking for himself and not the president.

Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s actions, including Comey’s ouster, constitute obstruction of justice.

___

Associated Press writers Chad Day and Eric Tucker in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

___

Darlene Superville, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

It was an opening day filled with blue skies, sun and COVID-19 protocols at Vernon’s SilverStar Mountain Resort Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Passholders enjoy sunny opening day at Silver Star Mountain

Resort staff say parking reservations, COVID-19 protocols went smoothly Friday, Dec. 4

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Two arrested after attack at Vernon home

Police spotted around 43rd Avenue linked to Wednesday assault

Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton has been re-elected as Regional District of North Okanagan Chair Nov. 18, 2020. (Richard Rolke - Morning Star file)
North Okanagan district re-elects chair, vice-chair

Acton, Shatzko re-elected for third lap as chair, vice-chair

An Armstrong resident shared video of a beaver gnawing away on a stick to Facebook Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. (Robyn Civic Adnoh photo)
WATCH: Beaver gnaws away in Armstrong wetlands

A resident captured video of a beaver chewing happily in a local creek Friday

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
Kelowna hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced the Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Damage to window panes at the downtown Salmon Arm Askew’s location could still be seen on Dec. 4. It was apparently caused by a pellet gun overnight on Dec. 2. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Windows damaged by pellet gun at both Salmon Arm Askew’s locations

Window panes were shot multiple times overnight on Dec. 2.

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

Most Read