Trump Conflates 'Phony Collusion' And Possible Obstruction Of Justice Investigation

Danny Woods
June 16, 2017

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office has taken up that work, and preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.

Trump has repeatedly lambasted the Russian Federation probe as a "witch hunt", using the phrase in at least eight tweets since March.

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, sent out spokespeople and surrogates with a far-fetched cover story to explain the dismissal, and then told NBC's Lester Holt that the real reason for the firing was Comey's pursuit of the Russian Federation investigation.

A spokesperson for Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, issued a statement saying: "The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal".

Which doesn't, of course, mean that Trump won't follow through and actually dismiss a man who insists on conducting an independent investigation, as he did F.B.I. Trump had wanted former FBI Director James Comey to publicly announce he was not personally being investigated, and after Comey didn't do so during a House Intelligence Committee hearing, Trump asked Coats and Rogers separately to issue public statements denying any collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation, the Post previously reported.

According to one source, Mueller sees the obstruction claims as more than just "he said, he said" between Trump and Comey.

The stated focus has been Russia's alleged efforts to tilt last November's presidential election Trump's way, and whether the winner's campaign was involved in any way.

Trump and his supporters cast Comey's testimony that he had told the president he was not personally under investigation as vindication. Comey told the intelligence committee that, after an encounter with President Trump in which he said Trump pressured him to back off an investigation into the former national security adviser, Comey implored Sessions to make sure he was never left alone with the president again - but Sessions didn't respond. Senators on Tuesday questioned both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on how the inquiry is being handled. Comey testified publicly last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of reasons it would be problematic for Sessions to remain involved in the probe before he recused himself.

Sessions said on Tuesday he did not recuse himself because he felt he was a subject of the investigation himself but rather because he felt he was required to by Justice Department rules.

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The poll shows the public relatively unsympathetic to those leaking information about the investigation.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told NPR's Phil Ewing, "NSA will fully cooperate with the special counsel".

Comey also testified he had told Trump he was not under investigation.

"I'm not able to comment on conversations with high officials within the White House", Sessions said.

Comey prepared multiple contemporaneous memos documenting conversations with Trump that made him uneasy in the weeks before his May 9 firing.

All week, some of Trump's most ardent defenders, including his son Donald Trump Jr., his White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and friend and occasional adviser Newt Gingrich have questioned the probe in similar ways.

The White House now refers all questions about the Russian Federation investigation to Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.

Following the hearing, 37 percent of registered voters said Comey's firing was appropriate, compared with 33 percent who said the same in late May. Comey's refusal to "lift the cloud" over Trump's head while the Russian investigation was still playing out ultimately was his undoing.

An obstruction of justice finding could form the basis for Mr Trump's impeachment but such a step would face a steep hurdle because it would require approval by the US House of Representatives, which is controlled by Mr Trump's fellow Republicans.

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