Republicans took a victory lap this weekend, claiming special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report, referred to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, exonerates President Donald Trump and proves there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
At the same time, conservatives are downplaying instances in which Trump attempted to interfere in or shut down the investigation, which explored allegations that the campaign worked with Russian officials to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.
Fox News host Brit Hume on Sunday suggested claims Trump obstructed justice by dismissing those in charge of the investigation were outright false, ignoring the president’s own past comments on the matter.
“I keep seeing this claim that he told Lester Holt he fired Comey because he was ‘looking into Russia’s role in the campaign,'” Hume tweeted, referring to former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired on May 9, 2017. On May 11, days after Comey’s dismissal, Trump sat down with Holt for a taped interview, and said he had fired Comey over “this Russia thing” which he claimed was “a made-up story.”
“I just rewatched the relevant part of the that interview. Maybe you can find his saying that. I couldn’t,” Hume tweeted Sunday.
I keep seeing this claim that he told Lester Holt he fired Comey because he was “looking into Russia’s role in the campaign.” I just rewatched the relevant part of the that interview. Maybe you can find his saying that. I couldn’t. Here it is: https://t.co/tlU4q9wZV1 https://t.co/gQRVGM6hBZ
— Brit Hume (@brithume) March 23, 2019
Comey himself testified before Congress in June 2017, saying Trump asked for his “loyalty” and had pushed him to shutter investigations into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2017. Flynn’s sentencing has been delayed several times, most recently in December 2018.
The president wished Flynn ‘good luck’ prior to that hearing, tweeting, “There was no Collusion!”
Mueller’s investigation lasted nearly two years and resulted in charges against six people who either worked for Trump’s campaign or were members of his inner-circle. They include Flynn, Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime adviser Roger Stone, and former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen.
Despite this, on Saturday, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who served under Trump from 2017 to 2018, claimed the public needed to “accept” that the president had not meddled in the investigation and was innocent of any wrongdoing.
After this long investigation both sides agreed to let Mueller do his job & complete the investigation. Everyone has to acknowledge that @realDonaldTrump did not interfere in the investigation. Now the American public needs to accept the results and move on. #EnoughAlready 🇺🇸
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) March 22, 2019
“After this long investigation both sides agreed to let Mueller do his job & complete the investigation,” Haley wrote. “Everyone has to acknowledge that @realDonaldTrump did not interfere in the investigation. Now the American public needs to accept the results and move on. #EnoughAlready.”
The former ambassador failed to mention the numerous times Trump has tried to undermine the Russia investigation publicly.
A number of other conservatives have also taken to the airwaves to praise the outcome of Mueller’s investigation, with some even criticizing the media and Trump’s former 2016 rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We can just burn [the report] up,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, told Fox & Friends Sunday morning, before pivoting to opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was commissioned by both the conservative Washington Free Beacon and the Democratic National Committee to compile the information now contained in the notorious Steele dossier.
“I mean, it is a partisan document,” he continued. “…Democrats say we’ve got to see the underlying information. What we really need to see is what was the FBI’s involvement with Fusion GPS. Who were they, who did they know about? And I’m sorry I don’t want to gloss over this for the viewers but Fusion GPS was essentially the Hillary Clinton campaign, they were hired by the Clinton campaign so we need to see all of that […].”
Devin Nunes tells Fox & Friends that Mueller's report should be burned and that Trump's DOJ should instead launch an investigation of the Obama administration. pic.twitter.com/V7GREE56dI
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) March 24, 2019
Aside from calling the investigation a “Witch Hunt”; lying repeatedly about the origins of the investigation; and attacking Rosenstein, members of Mueller’s team, and anyone related to the probe on Twitter, Trump took a number of actions as president that threatened the probe directly.
Trump claimed last May, for instance, that a possible FBI informant was working within his campaign, calling it the “all time biggest political scandal!” and prompting his supporters in Congress to demand details from the FBI. The baseless claim in fact followed reports from The New York Times and Washington Post that said an FBI informant had spoken with certain members of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Trump’s comments prompted FBI Director Christopher Wray to warn the Senate Appropriations Committee, “The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.”
Trump has also suggested he may pardon Manafort, who was convicted last year of bank and tax fraud, after Manafort would not cooperate with the special counsel’s office. Conversely, he has called Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and campaign finance violations, a “Rat” on Twitter after Cohen agreed to work with Mueller and testified before Congress that Trump instructed him to pay hush money to two women during the 2016 campaign to influence the outcome of the election.
Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have also made veiled threats against members of Cohen’s family.
Additionally, according to a report from The New York Times last January, Trump ordered Mueller’s firing in June 2018 but backed off after former White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign instead of carrying out the directive.
Trump instead fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia probe shortly after taking office over his own ties to Russian officials. Trump blamed Sessions for the move, calling him “disloyal,” and said he would never have appointed Sessions if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation.
Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker — a Russian investigation skeptic and critic — to the position in an acting capacity after Sessions’ departure. Whitaker was never confirmed by congress but was left with the responsibility for overseeing Mueller.
Despite repeated requests, Trump never sat down for an in-person interview with Mueller’s team during the process of the investigation. The president did send Mueller’s office written answers to questions surrounding allegations of Russian collusion, but his attorneys shut down invitations to speak with the special counsel.