Donald Trump struck a combative tone against the Russia investigation on Monday, saying there was no such thing as obstruction of justice, only “fighting back”.
Image: Donald Trump
The president also told Democrats on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators: “Wait ‘till the courts get to see your unrevealed conflicts of interest!”
Mueller is investigating Russian election interference and alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. He has indicted four former Trump aides, three of whom have reached plea deals involving cooperation with investigating authorities.
Possible obstruction of justice by the president, in events such as the firing of FBI director James Comey, is one issues on which Mueller is focused.
Trump has indicated a willingness to be interviewed by Mueller but the president’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, indicated on Sunday that Trump could invoke his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination and not answer Mueller’s questions.
It was also reported over the weekend that Tom Barrack, a real estate billionaire and close confidante of Trump, has been questioned by Mueller.
Trump also tweeted about two departures from the FBI announced last week, which he said were “part of the probers getting caught”.
FBI lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok made headlines for exchanging derogatory text messages about Trump.
Trump noted that Page has left the bureau – as has counsel James Baker – and asked “Why is Peter S still there? What a total mess. Our country has to get back to business!”
Text messages between Page and Strzok, who was assigned to Mueller’s investigation, show them expressing negative views about Trump and referring to him in derogatory ways. Strzok was reassigned after the text messages were brought to Mueller’s attention. Page had already left the team.
Trump also questioned whether “this phony witch-hunt” was being prolonged so it “wrongfully impacts the midterm elections, which is what the Democrats always intended”.
“Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late!” he wrote.
Trump has no public events scheduled for Monday.
Mueller, a former FBI director appointed by a Republican president, is a Republican himself. Some members of his team have contributed to Democratic politicians, including Clinton. But Mueller could not have barred them from serving on his team. Federal regulations and justice department policy prohibit the consideration of political affiliation in hiring and other personnel actions involving career attorneys.
Nonetheless, Trump tweeted: “The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a court system in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ‘till the courts get to see your unrevealed conflicts of interest!”
Trump also applauded the actions of a federal judge who on Friday questioned Mueller’s authority in a case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Manfort has pleaded not guilty on financial charges.