President Trump accused his predecessor, President Obama, of rigging the ongoing Russia investigation against him and instructing an FBI agent to carry out the task, during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday night.
FBI agent Peter Strzok, a former member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team, has long been a target of conservatives, who claim his previous anti-Trump texts to a colleague with whom he was having an affair prove the Russia investigation is nothing more than a political witch-hunt. Trump has repeatedly echoed those claims, suggesting Strzok wanted to prevent him from winning the presidency and that the investigation is baseless, despite the numerous indictments Mueller’s team has handed down over the past year.
On Monday night, following his diplomatic summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump took things a step further by implying his predecessor had directly ordered Strzok to rig the investigation against him.
After calling Strzok “a disgrace to our country,” Trump added, “You have to find out — who did Peter Strzok report to? Because it was James Comey and it was (former FBI Deputy Director Andrew) McCabe, but it was also probably Obama. If you think that Obama didn’t know what was going on….”
Trump offered no evidence to back that claim, appearing to make it up on the spot.
Trump previously accused Obama of spying on him, suggesting in March last year that the former president had wiretapped his offices in Trump Tower during the 2016 election — a claim that was later debunked by the Justice Department.
Trump had kinder words for Putin, who he praised as “very, very strong.” He then paraphrased Putin’s comments describing Mueller’s investigation as a “phony witch hunt,” saying the Russian president had told him it was preventing them from striking any deals, such as the “safety of nuclear.”
“President Putin said, one of the early things he said when we started, he said it’s really a shame because we could do so much good, whether it is humanitarian aid throughout the Middle East, whether it’s not just Syria, so many different things. The safety of nuclear, which ultimately, there is nothing bigger and more important,” he said. “And they drove a phony wedge, just a phony witch hunt, a rigged deal with guys like Peter Strzok and Comey and McCabe. The whole group. And you can imagine who else. It’s a real shame.”
Trump also said Putin was angry to hear about salacious allegations from the Steele dossier, which Russia’s president claimed were not true.
“It makes him angry when he sees it,” he said. “You know it’s very interesting — you look at what’s happening, you look at what — that whole thing. He understood it. And he was — I don’t know if you could see it — he was incensed even talking about it.”
Trump seized the moment to once again publicize Putin’s offer to help “analyze” U.S. intelligence on 12 GRU officers — Russian military intelligence — who Mueller indicted Friday for their alleged roles in hacking the DNC and DCCC servers, as well as the email accounts of Hillary Clinton campaign staffers.
“He’s willing to take those 12 people, there is no extradition,” Trump said. “But he is willing to let Robert Mueller’s people go over there and bring a big investigation of those people, working together with the Russian investigators.”
Monday’s interview was recorded shortly after Trump’s disastrous joint press conference with the Russian leader, who the U.S. intelligence community has “assessed with high confidence” directed a covert attack on the 2016 American election to help Trump.
Despite the intelligence community’s assessment, Trump has continued to downplay the threat Russia and Putin pose, choosing instead to paint his friendly relationship with the autocratic leader as diplomatic bridge-building.