Trump Blames Attorney General, Fired FBI Agent for Russia Probe
U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed new attacks Tuesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, blaming them for the investigation of Russian links to his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign that has consumed his presidency.
The U.S. leader said on Twitter, "If we had a real Attorney General, this Witch Hunt would never have been started! Looking at the wrong people."
Trump's attack on the country's top law enforcement official came days after he described Sessions as "scared stiff" and "missing in action."
Trump has long been critical of Sessions but has stopped short of firing Sessions for recusing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's criminal investigation into whether Trump associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, and whether Trump, as president, has obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.
Under Justice Department rules, Sessions was required to remove himself from overseeing Mueller's operation because of conflicts of interest, Sessions' own 2016 contacts with Russia's then-ambassador to Washington and his staunch support of Trump's presidential candidacy.
Trump also assailed Strzok, who was a key investigator in Mueller's probe until Mueller removed him when text messages Strzok wrote disparaging Trump were uncovered. The FBI fired him last week, although an earlier Justice Department inspector general's report had concluded there was no evidence that Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the woman with whom he was corresponding, acted on their anti-Trump views to try to stop Trump's election.
Trump tweeted, "Fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok is a fraud, as is the rigged investigation he started. There was no Collusion or Obstruction with Russia, and everybody, including the Democrats, know it."
Trump claimed, without elaboration, "The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!" using his favorite pejorative for his 2016 challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
He added, "Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt – why isn’t this so-called 'probe' ended immediately? Why aren’t these angry and conflicted Democrats instead looking at Crooked Hillary?"
On Monday, Trump praised Strzok's dismissal from the FBI after a 22-year career, tweeting, "Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally."
Last month, Strzok told a House of Representatives hearing that the anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with Page reflected his personal opinions and that he had never let his beliefs interfere with his work for the FBI.
In the key exchange between Strzok and Page, she texted him that Trump is "not ever going to become president, right? Right?!" Strzok replied, "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."
Mueller's investigation is now in its 15th month.
He has secured guilty pleas from several Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and ex-foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about their contacts with Russia.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently on trial for bank and tax fraud in connection with his lobbying efforts for Ukraine that predated his work on Trump's campaign.