WHITE HOUSE - When and how the special counsel's Russia investigation report will be released are "totally up to the new attorney general," U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
His remark to reporters in the Oval Office, during a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, came just after CNN reported that Robert Mueller's investigation could be completed as early as next week, and that Attorney General William Barr would submit a summary of the confidential report to Congress.
Trump was also asked about media interviews a former acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been conducting to promote a book that outlines a counterintelligence probe he opened into the president's conduct.
"Andrew McCabe has made a fool out of himself over the last couple of days," responded Trump. "He is a disaster."
The president said McCabe was a disgraced man who was discredited after his termination for lying to internal investigators about leaks to the media.
McCabe has told interviewers he briefed a bipartisan group of top lawmakers about the investigation, and none of them raised objections. The former FBI official also has stated "it's possible" that Trump could be a Russian asset.
The allegation is among a number of fresh, serious accusations raising questions about the president's response to federal investigations involving him and close associates.
The special counsel has already charged six associates from Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and has indicted or extracted guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies.
However, prosecutors have not released any information alleging that any of Trump's advisers conspired with Russian officials to alter the outcome of the election.
Trump, earlier Wednesday on Twitter, called The New York Times "a true enemy of the people" after the newspaper reported the president had asked his former acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, to arrange to put another federal prosecutor in charge of the investigation into hush money paid during the election campaign to two women who alleged they'd had sexual relationships with the candidate.
The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2019
The investigation involved a total of $280,000 in payments made by Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer, to two women — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — who said they'd had sexual encounters with Trump more than a decade ago.
The money was meant to keep their stories quiet just ahead of the November 2016 election and not harm Trump's presidential run. Cohen, once Trump's personal fixer, has pleaded guilty of campaign finance violations related to the payments, which he said Trump directed him to make.
He also has pleaded guilty of other offenses and has been ordered to report to prison on May 6 to begin a three-year sentence.
Trump denied on Tuesday that he had intervened in the case, calling the report "fake news."
If true, the episode could be used as evidence that Trump sought to influence one of several law enforcement investigations into his conduct and that of his associates.