Trump Says AG Sessions 'Should' End Mueller's 'Rigged Witch Hunt Right Now'
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to put an end to the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He quoted constitutional law scholar Alan Dershowitz, explaining that FBI agent Peter Strzok should never have been allowed to participate in the Mueller probe.
"FBI Agent Peter Strzok (on the Mueller team) should have recused himself on day one. He was out to STOP THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP. He needed an insurance policy. Those are illegal, improper goals, trying to influence the Election," Trump tweeted, quoting Dershowitz. Dershowitz went on to say that Strzok "should never, ever been allowed [sic] to remain in the FBI while he was himself being investigated."
Trump then suggested that A.G. Sessions should end the Mueller probe. "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," he tweeted. "Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!"
John Marshall, publisher of Talking Points Memo, noted that the president did not direct or order Sessions to end the probe. "Note that Trump didn't quite tell sessions [sic] to end the Mueller probe," Marshall tweeted. "He said he shld. But there's actually been a debate at DOD abt whether tweets shld be interpreted as chain of command orders."
Interestingly, this news comes after Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, reportedly told senators that he approved of Mueller's appointment as special counsel. Kavanaugh has opposed the much more controversial practice of an independent counsel, even though he served on the staff of Ken Starr, who served as independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton.
After suggesting Sessions end the Mueller probe, Trump defended his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, noting that he "worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders." He asked, "Why didn't government tell me that he was under investigation," adding, "these old charges have nothing to do with Collusion — a Hoax!"
Trump's attacks on Mueller's team as "17 angry Democrats" and his defense of Manafort may be overstated, but his argument that the collusion narrative is fabricated has a great deal of plausibility.
"Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX," the president tweeted. "The Democrats paid for the phony and discredited Dossier which was, along with Comey, McCabe, Strzok and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, used to begin the Witch Hunt. Disgraceful!"
The president paints with too broad a brush — and may want to dial down on the ALL CAPS from time to time — but the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee did indeed pay for the infamous Steele dossier, and the bias of Strzok and Page is indeed worrying. Most Americans have said the Mueller investigation is politically motivated.
Trump's exaggerated claims are unlikely to convince any beyond his most fervent supporters, but he does make some valid points. Strzok should never have been on the Mueller investigation. It seems the FBI relied primarily on the Steele dossier — without verifying it first! — to gain a FISA warrant against Carter Page.
If Sessions did try to end the Mueller probe, the Democrats would never shut up about it. Furthermore, Mueller's probe has caught up a few Democrats in addition to Manafort. Bernie Sanders' chief strategist was named in evidence against Manafort. Tony Podesta, a Hillary Clinton bundler and brother of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, was also caught up in the Mueller investigation.