Trump Calls for Sessions to End Russia Probe
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end special counsel Robert Mueller's criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, even though Sessions more than a year ago removed himself from oversight of the probe because of his own contacts with Russia.
Trump said Mueller's 14-month investigation of his campaign's links to Russia is "a terrible situation," and tweeted that Sessions "should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further."
The U.S. leader contended that "Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!"
Trump's pressure on Sessions came on the second day of the tax and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, with the president, in another tweet, calling the trial "a hoax" and attempting to distance himself from the case in a courtroom just outside Washington. Manafort is accused of hiding millions of dollars he earned lobbying for deposed Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych in the years before his work for the Trump campaign.
"Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders," Trump said. "He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!"
There was no immediate response from Sessions, the country's top law enforcement official, on the president's call to end the Russia probe.
News accounts a year ago, however, said that Sessions had rebuffed Trump's earlier demands to retake control of the investigation.
Sessions had recused himself under Justice Department guidelines calling for officials to end their involvement in investigations when they had a conflict of interest in whatever case that was under consideration, in Sessions's case, his 2016 contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington and his role as a political surrogate supporting Trump's election.
With Sessions' removal from the Russia probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assumed oversight of the investigation and named Mueller to lead it after Trump in May 2017 fired James Comey, who as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was at the time heading the agency's Russia probe.
Trump has often assailed Sessions, Rosenstein and Mueller for their roles in the probe, but his public call for Sessions to end it was his most direct yet. Trump, however, has declined to fire any of the officials, perhaps because some lawmakers, including Republican colleagues of Trump's, have warned him that his dismissal of any of the officials could lead to impeachment hearings against him in the House of Representatives.
In a third tweet, Trump said, "Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX," blaming Democrats, Comey and other FBI officials for starting the "Witch Hunt."
"Disgraceful!" he said.
Mueller has secured guilty pleas from a handful of Trump aides for lying to investigators about their contacts with Russia and indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officials on charges of hacking into computers of Democratic operatives supporting Trump's opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and then releasing emails through WikiLeaks.
Mueller's probe is continuing, and there is no deadline for its completion, although Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said this week he thinks it could be finished next month, weeks ahead of the Nov. 6 nationwide congressional elections.