President Donald Trump has expressibly said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should “stop” the special counsel investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, even though Mr Sessions has recursed himself from the matter.
The president made the request Wednesday morning in a series of tweets lashing out at the probe, the attorneys working on that team, and special counsel Robert Mueller himself, who he said is “totally conflicted”.
“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,” Mr Trump said after accusing Mr Mueller and his team of conspiring to protect certain members of the intelligence community.
Mr Sessions recursed himself from matters relating to the Russia probe early on in his tenure as attorney general, citing his involvement in Mr Trump’s campaign and noting that the Department of Justice has regulations forbidding an official from being involved in an investigation into a campaign they were personally involved in.
Following the tweet storm, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy GIuliani, told Reuters that the president was simply expressing an opinion he and his team have had for a long time.
“We have been saying for months that it is time to bring this inquiry to an end,” he told Reuters. “The president has expressed the same opinion”.
Mr Trump highlighted the case of FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who had previously worked on the Russia probe but was removed after text messages showing him expressing a negative bias towards Mr Trump came to light.
Those texts were sent during the 2016 campaign and after, and frequently bashed Mr Trump while indicating potential concerns that the FBI was being too tough on Hillary Clinton, then the Democratic nominee for president.
Mr Strzok has since acknowledged those texts during testimony before Congress, but said that he did not let his personal opinions colour his work for the intelligence agency — and noted that no major decisions were made with him as the sole authority approving.
In the course of Mr Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet storm, he also lashed out against the notion that his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had led his 2016 presidential campaign to collude with the Russian government. Mr Manafort is currently on trial for bank fraud and tax evasion, allegations were uncovered by Mr Mueller’s team.
“Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders,” Mr Trump wrote. “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!”
Mr Manafort’s criminal trial in a federal courthouse in Virginia began Tuesday after months of speculation that he might “flip” on Mr Trump and his associates. The first day of his trial proceeded swiftly, and attorneys managed to convene a jury, and deliver opening statements.
The team prosecuting Mr Manafort from the Mueller probe are reportedly planning on relying on a trove of documents, emails, and witnesses in order to portray the accused as a serial liar who has deceived the federal government, banks, and orchestrated the creation of a criminal financial enterprise.
Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges he currently faces.