During his remarkable Fox & Friends interview on Thursday, President Trump twice vowed to meddle more aggressively in the FBI going forward.
Alluding to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Trump said that “because of the fact that they have this witch hunt going on, with people in the Justice Department that shouldn’t be there… I have taken the position — and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change — that I will not be involved with the Justice Department.”
“I will wait until this is over,” he continued. “It’s a total — it’s all lies and it’s a horrible thing that’s going on.”
Trump on him meddling in DOJ: Because of the fact that they have this witch-hunt going on against the president of the United States, I have taken the position, and I don't have to take this position and maybe I'll change, that I will not be involved with the Justice Department." pic.twitter.com/ZRTbTXz9PE
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 26, 2018
Later, an obviously angry Trump returned to the topic as Fox & Friends hosts tried to end the interview.
“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI — it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department — which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t — our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.”
Trump concludes @foxandfriends interview by screaming about conflicts of interest on Robert Mueller's team, and promising to meddle more aggressively in the Department of Justice going forward. pic.twitter.com/ITak7tEEJJ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 26, 2018
It’s unclear exactly what Trump had in mind when he vowed to get more “involved” in the DOJ, though it’s notable that he repeatedly brought it up in the context of his frustration with the Mueller investigation. The White House has said it believes Trump has the power to fire the special counsel, but even if he doesn’t, Trump could seek to curtail Mueller by firing and replacing deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal.
During a pool spray with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, a reporter asked Trump to clarify what he meant. But despite the fact that Trump clearly heard the question, he chose to ignore it.
“You said earlier this week that you weren’t interested in intervening in the DOJ, but that might change–” the reporter started to ask, before Trump cut her off and indicated he wanted reporters to leave the room.
The notion that Trump hasn’t already meddled in the Justice Department already is laughable, given that he’s publicly admitted he fired then-FBI Director James Comey because of his frustrations with the FBI’s investigation into his campaign. The move didn’t work out well for Trump, as it resulted in Rosenstein appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel.
Firing Mueller also carries risk for Trump. Earlier this week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed warning Trump that firing Mueller could result in his impeachment.
“Firing Mr. Mueller would be a grave error. It would trigger a crisis, possibly even impeachment,” Hatch wrote. “It would threaten many of the administration’s accomplishments and make continued progress virtually impossible.”
Shortly before Friday’s press spray, Trump responded to the release of an intelligence report written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee by calling for the end of Mueller’s investigation:
Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. “No evidence” that the Trump Campaign “colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia.” Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia- Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2018
Trump’s tweet is misleading. The report he touted doesn’t represent the findings of Democrats on the committee, who wrote in a minority report that the Republican conclusions “unsupported by the facts and the investigative record.”
“They have been crafted to advance a political narrative that exonerates the President, downplays Russia’s preference and support for then-candidate Trump, explains away repeated contacts by Trump associates with Russia-aligned actors, and seeks to shift suspicion towards President Trump’s political opponents and the prior administration,” the minority report adds.