WASHINGTON – Under criticism for his pick of an acting attorney general who has a history of speaking out against Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, President Donald Trump launched another attack Thursday against the special counsel.
Claiming that “the inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess,” Trump tweeted that prosecutors “have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.”
Trump did not detail his complaints, even as he described Mueller’s team as “a disgrace to our Nation.”
The renewed attacks came as lawmakers criticized Trump for appointing aide Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general in place of the dismissed Jeff Sessions, a move they say is designed to impede the Russia investigation.
While Sessions had recused himself from the Mueller probe, Whitaker is in a position to supervise an investigation he has repeatedly criticized in interviews over the past year-and-a-half. At one point, Whitaker suggested that defunding could stop the Mueller investigation.
While the Justice Department Wednesday insisted that Trump has the authority to appoint Whitaker in an acting capacity, lawmakers have called on him to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation as Sessions did.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is backing legislation to protect Mueller’s job, said he would work to block Trump judicial nominees until the Senate takes up the proposal.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Mueller legislation is not necessary because they do not believe Trump will try to shut down the Russia investigation.
Trump’s latest attacks on the special counsel come as lawyers continue to negotiate possible testimony from the president, said one official familiar with the talks. Trump has met with attorneys in recent days about written answers to potential questions from Mueller.
The special counsel’s office is investigating Russian election interference on Trump’s behalf, via hacking Democratic Party officials and pushing fake news about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Investigators are looking at whether there were any links between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and whether Trump has tried to obstruct the investigation.
Trump has denied collusion or obstruction, and did so again during his brief tweet storm Thursday.
“These are Angry People, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for 8 years,” Trump said. “They won’t even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side. A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!”
In fact, Mueller is a Republican whom President George W. Bush appointed as FBI director in 2001. Obama recommended an extension of Mueller’s term, and the Senate concurred by a vote of 100-0.
Trump lashed out just hours after his vice president, Mike Pence, lodged a complaint with Russia President Vladimir Putin about election meddling.
An administration official confirmed the Pence-Putin exchange that took place on the sidelines of an Asian economic summit in Singapore. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity about a private conversation, did not discuss exactly what Pence told Putin.
Pence’s office put out a statement saying only that the vice president and Putin “discussed the upcoming G-20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit.”
Trump spoke only briefly with Putin when the two were in Paris last weekend, officials said, and are planning a more extensive conversation during the G-20 summit Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aries.
In Singapore, Putin told reporters in Singapore that he and Pence also discussed Trump’s plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces arms treaty with Russia, a move the Russians have protested.
The two also discussed Iran, Putin said.
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