As the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort begins, President Trump begged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to bring the ongoing criminal investigation of his campaign to an abrupt end.
“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”
A few minutes later, Trump addressed Manafort’s plight directly in a tweet containing two false suggestions — first, that Manafort’s resume is a valid defense against charges he laundered tens of millions of dollars and conspired against his own government; and second, that Trump wasn’t warned about Russia during his campaign. (He was in fact personally warned about Russian infiltration of his campaign by intelligence chiefs in August 2016.)
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after it emerged that he lied about his contacts with Russians while serving as a Trump campaign surrogate.
Trump’s tweet begging Sessions to end Mueller’s work could come back to haunt him. Part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation pertains to whether Trump obstructed justice with his repeated attempt to meddle in the active criminal investigation of his campaign, including firing then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2016. News recently emerged that Mueller is scrutinizing Trump’s tweets as part of that investigation.
In yet another Wednesday morning rage-tweet, Trump lied about the origins of the FBI’s investigation.
“Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX,” Trump tweeted. “The Democrats paid for the phony and discredited Dossier which was, along with Comey, McCabe, Strzok and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, used to begin the Witch Hunt. Disgraceful!”
But the FBI’s investigation didn’t begin with the Steele dossier. It actually started in July 2016, when emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee were published by WikiLeaks — a development that prompted an Australian diplomat to come forward and report that a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, bragged to him about having foreknowledge that Russia “had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.” The diplomat’s report prompted the FBI to open up a counterintelligence investigation.
While Trump tries to smear the Mueller investigation as a partisan “Witch Hunt,” the fact is that Robert Mueller is a lifelong Republican who was appointed FBI director by Republican President George W. Bush. Last year, Mueller was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — another lifelong Republican who was appointed to his current position by Trump.
Nonetheless, Trump has gone to drastic lengths to construe Mueller as a partisan. In a tweet posted on Sunday, he noted ominously that Mueller “worked for Obama,” implying that Mueller’s decision to stay on as FBI director after George W. Bush’s second term reflected political bias.
Meanwhile, after many months of unequivocally insisting there was “NO COLLUSION” between his campaign and Russia, Trump and his legal team have started explicitly making the argument that “collusion is not a crime.” That change in approach suggests more incriminating revelations could be forthcoming.