President Donald Trump angrily decried as a “distraction” the “witch hunt” against him yesterday, as his lawyer insisted the US leader was not under criminal investigation in the sweeping probe of Russian meddling in American elections.
The contradictory messages came after Trump first answered — and seemingly confirmed — reports that he is personally being investigated for obstruction of justice when he tweeted on Friday: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”
But Jay Sekulow, who is part of Trump’s legal team, said Trump was in fact writing about reports of an investigation, not an actual probe.
“The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources purportedly leaking info to The Washington Post,” Sekulow told NBC television’s Meet the Press.
“He’s not afraid of the investigation — there is no investigation...there is not an investigation of the president of the United States, period.”
Sekulow was referring to a report in the Post this week that said Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in November’s presidential election was now also trying to determine whether Trump obstructed justice.
Trump’s fledgling presidency has been battered by allegations — under investigation both by Congress and the FBI — that Russia interfered to sway the 2016 election in his favour, in possible collusion with Trump’s campaign team.
Yesterday, Trump again referred to the probe, but dismissed it as a “distraction.”
“The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt. Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm, massive regulation cuts, 36 new legislative bills signed, great new S.C. Justice, and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Tax Cuts in works!” he wrote.
Sekulow, however, said his legal team had not received notice of any investigation.
“There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation.
In fact, to the contrary,” he told CBS’ Face the Nation, pointing to recent testimony by sacked FBI director James Comey who said the president had not been the target of an investigation. Trump fired Comey in early May.
Trump has hinted that he may have taped conversations with Comey — conversations in which the ex-FBI chief says the president pressured him for his loyalty.
Sekulow said that Trump would address the issue of the tapes — whose very existence have been the source of much speculation — in the “week ahead.”
Senator Marco Rubio, who lost the Republican primary election to Trump, called for a “full and credible investigation”.
“If we want to put all this behind us, let’s find out what happened, put it out there, and let’s not undermine the credibility of the investigation, and so my view on it is that is the best thing that could happen for the president and for the country,” he told CNN.
Rubio sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe into Russian election meddling.
“The president has strong feelings about it and (what) I would communicate to the White House and to the world through this broadcast is, let this thing work its way through, let it be thorough and complete so no one will have any doubt,” Rubio added.
US President Donald Trump flew to Maryland on Saturday with his wife Melania and youngest son Barron to spend the Father’s Day weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David.
The Trumps set off on the 30-minute journey by helicopter from the South Lawn of the White House with the first lady’s parents, according to a White House press pool report.
It was the Trumps’ first visit to the retreat since the president took office.
Since becoming president in January, Trump has preferred to travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida or the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on weekends he did not spend in Washington. Camp David, which is managed by the US Navy at an estimated annual cost of some $8mn, is located in the wooded hills of Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland, some 100km north/north-west of the capital.
It has been used by many US presidents since Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated the retreat in 1942, including John F Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, George W Bush and Barack Obama. In 1978, Middle East peace talks were held there.
Set in lush countryside, the remote location and simple, rustic charm of the cabins at Camp David stand in stark contrast to the more lavish style exhibited in Trump’s private membership clubs or his dazzling gold-laden, three-story 66th-floor New York penthouse apartment in Trump Tower.
“Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it,” the Washington Post quoted Trump as telling a European journalist in an interview just before taking office in January. “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.”
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