President Trump on Thursday criticized reports that he is now under investigation for obstruction of justice in connection with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, denouncing it as another "witch hunt" that is unfairly targeting him.
"They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story," Trump tweeted. "Nice."
Trump followed up about an hour later with another critical tweet: "You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!"
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
Trump appeared to be a responding to a Washington Post report that special prosecutor Robert Mueller "is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said."
While the Justice Department appointed Mueller to investigate Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — and any "collusion" with the Trump campaign — his assignment also includes "any matters that arose or may arise” from the Russia probe.
Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he believes Trump fired him last month because he resisted a request to drop the Russia investigation, especially as it related to former national security adviser Michael. Flynn.
Trump said he fired Comey for poor performance, though he ealso reportedly told a group of Russian officials that the Comey dismissal would help get the Russia probe behind him. He also called Comey a "nut job."
Rosenstein named Mueller
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel shortly after Comey's firing. Rosenstein was acting, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from acting in the Russia investigation after it was revealed he had held two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the Nov. 8, 2016 election.
News that Mueller is now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice comes amid reports that Trump has discussed whether to remove the special counsel. White House officials said the president is not considering such a step.
Supporters of Trump condemned the news leaks regarding the new investigation.
"The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal," said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's legal team.
It is possible, however, that the sources for the Post report could have been those interviewed as part of the investigation, not the investigators themselves.
In the most famous presidential investigation, Watergate, Archibald Cox was appointed special prosecutor on May 18, 1973 — by June 5, Nixon was complaining about being attacked by Cox. That October, Nixon had Cox fired, leading eventually to House impeachment hearings and the president's resignation.
Trump is not the first president to be subjected to a special counsel investigation, nor the first president to protest it.
During the 1990s, President Bill Clinton and supporters protested the investigation of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, which began as a probe of the Whitewater real estate deal and ended with Clinton's impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction regarding his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.
© 2018 USATODAY.COM