President Donald Trump lit into the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference Tuesday shortly after his former fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight felony counts in New York and a jury in Virginia found his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, guilty on eight felony counts of fraud.
“I feel very sad about that,” Trump said as he deplaned Air Force One for a campaign rally in West Virginia. “It doesn’t involve me, but I still feel, you know — it’s a very sad thing that happened.”
“This is a witch hunt, and it’s a disgrace,” Trump continued. “But this has nothing to do with what they started out looking for Russians involved in our campaign. There were none.”
Asked about the Manafort case, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders simply referred reporters to Trump’s comments in West Virginia. She referred requests for comment on the Cohen case to Trump’s legal team.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone from Trump’s campaign acted to aid those Russian efforts. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, later telling two top Russian officials it was because he faced “great pressure because of Russia.”
The president often takes to Twitter to vent his frustration with the Mueller investigation, which he often calls a “witch hunt” and has accused of being driven by his political enemies.
“Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “They are a National Disgrace!”
“It is a total Hoax,” he tweeted earlier this month. “No Collusion, No Obstruction — I just fight back!”
Trump is likely to take more stabs at the special counsel after Tuesday’s events, which bring the investigation closer to the Oval Office.
Of particular concern to the president and his legal team may be Cohen’s plea hearing Monday, in which he admitted to making an illegal campaign contribution at on Trump’s orders.
Rudolph Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal lawyers and his most vocal public defender, was quick to distance the president from Cohen after the plea.
“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen,” Giuliani said Tuesday. “It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”
In West Virginia on Monday, Trump said he feels “very badly” for Manafort and expressed sadness that the former campaign aide’s long career ended with a criminal conviction.
“He worked for many people,” Trump said. “And this is the way it ends up. And it was not the original mission, believe me. It was, it was something very much different. So, it had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt.”