WHITE HOUSE —
U.S. President Donald Trump has taken to his favorite social media platform to assail reports that a special counsel is investigating whether he tried to obstruct justice.
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.” That was the message Trump wrote sarcastically Thursday morning on his Twitter account.
In a second tweet, Trump said, “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people!”
At an off-camera briefing for reporters, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred questions about the president’s latest tweets to Trump’s personal attorney.
The tweets potentially could put the president into deeper legal peril.
Watch: Trump Lashes Out at Reports of Possible Obstruction of Justice Inquiry
“It looks grossly inappropriate for the president to be bad-mouthing a special counsel investigation looking into his actions and that was created by his own deputy attorney general,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in litigation relating to national security, federal employment and security clearance law.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller likely “will be archiving these various Twitter rants as supplemental evidence” for the obstruction investigation, Moss, who also is deputy executive director of the James Madison Project, told VOA.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, reacting to the news stories that prompted the Trump tweets, blamed the FBI for leaking information regarding the president, which he called “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”
Several news reports said Mueller plans to interview key U.S. national security officials about Trump’s comments seeking an end to the investigation of contacts his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak.
Based on accounts of people familiar with the investigation, the reports say Mueller plans to interview Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers and former NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett.
The reports say one focus of Mueller’s investigation is presidential conversations with Coats and Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo in late March, in which Trump reportedly asked them to intervene with then-FBI Director James Comey to ask him to halt his probe of Flynn. A day or two later, Trump reportedly called Coats and Rogers to ask them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence that Trump aides had illegally colluded with Russian officials to help Trump win the election.
According to the news accounts, neither Coats nor Rogers complied with Trump’s requests. It was not known whether Ledgett talked with Trump, but he wrote an internal NSA document recounting Trump’s request to Rogers.
Coats and Rogers told a Senate panel a week ago they did not feel pressured by Trump to intervene in the case, but declined to say what Trump asked them to do.
The Washington Post is reporting that officials say Mueller also is investigating the finances and business deals of Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.
Previous Post articles spoke of Kushner’s meetings with the head of a Russian state-owned development bank. Kushner’s lawyers say he will cooperate with investigators.
The former director of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, is scheduled to appear June 21 in an open session before the House of Representatives’ intelligence committee, which is looking into Russian activity during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has interviewed Johnson about the matter.
The president fired Flynn in February, after just 24 days on the job, when he learned that the former Marine lieutenant general lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak.
Trump fired Comey last month, saying “this Russia thing” was on his mind when he made the decision to oust the nation’s top law enforcement official while Comey was leading the FBI’s probe into Russia’s meddling.
About a week later, Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed, over Trump’s opposition, as special counsel to lead the criminal probe.
The White House confirmed Thursday that Mueller was interviewed, presumably about again running the FBI, the day before he was named as special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.
News accounts this week said Trump was considering firing Mueller from his special counsel role, but the White House eventually said he does not plan to.
Watch: Comey Wrote Memos Because Trump ‘Might Lie About The Nature of Our Meeting’
Comey testified before a Senate panel last week that Trump spoke privately with him several times, including by telephone and at White House meetings.
Comey said he believed Trump was trying to get him to drop an investigation of the president’s former national security adviser, and that White House officials spread “lies, plain and simple” to cover up the reason for his dismissal.