U.S. President Donald Trump resumed his attack Monday on the criminal investigation of his 2016 campaign's links to Russia, branding it "a total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!"
Trump's latest salvo against special counsel Robert Mueller's probe came hours after White House lawyer Ty Cobb said the president is not considering firing Mueller. Over the weekend, Trump unleashed a string of Twitter comments assailing the prosecutor, accusing him of political bias.
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.
In one tweet Sunday recalling his 2016 election victory against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump said, "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added ... does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!"
Mueller has been a registered Republican, and was named FBI director years ago by Republican President George W. Bush. Mueller is generally viewed in Washington as an apolitical prosecutor, whose investigation of the Trump campaign is supported by Democrats and key Republicans, some of whom voiced their support on Sunday news shows for his handling of the probe.
On Saturday, Trump's personal lawyer John Dowd suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel, "bring an end" to Mueller's investigation, resulting in media speculation about Trump's next move regarding the probe.
Trump also attacked two former ousted FBI officials, former director James Comey, fired by Trump last May, and former deputy director Andrew McCabe, dismissed at Trump's urging late Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 26 hours before McCabe was set to retire and collect his full pension. Trump contended that Comey's and McCabe's personal written recollections of their conversations he had with them are fabricated.
Trump said he "spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. 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?" In another tweet, Trump referred to the one-time FBI chief as "Sanctimonious James Comey" and said he made McCabe "look like a choirboy."
Sessions dismissed McCabe after concurring with an internal Justice Department investigation that McCabe "had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor, including under oath, on multiple occasions," a news leak McCabe said Comey knew about while they served together at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The president contended "The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary" and the Democratic National Committee, "and improperly used" by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!"
On Sunday, Senator Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a key Trump supporter, told CNN that Mueller "needs to be able to do his job without interference." Graham said that if Trump were to attempt to fire Mueller it would be "the beginning of the end of his presidency."
Congressman Trey Gowdy, another South Carolina Republican, told Fox News, "I think the president’s lawyer does a disservice when he says that and frames the investigation that way ... Russia attacked our country, let special counsel Mueller figure that out."
Gowdy was part of the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee that concluded a week ago that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but said in the television interview, "You should want Special Counsel Mueller to take all the time and have all the independence he needs to do his job."
Trump said, "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. Drain The Swamp."
McCabe, in a statement after his firing, called his ouster "retribution," saying, "I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of [former FBI Director] James Comey." U.S. news accounts said he had written contemporaneous accounts of his conversations with Trump.
His firing, barely a day ahead of his 50th birthday on Sunday, could cost McCabe thousands of dollars in retirement benefits.