Trump lashes out at FBI over investigation
President Donald Trump unleashed an extended assault on the FBI and the special counsel’s investigation Saturday, knitting together a comprehensive alternative story in which he had been framed by disgraced “losers” at the FBI’s highest levels.
In two hours starting at 7 a.m., Trump made a series of false claims on Twitter about his adversaries and the events surrounding the inquiry. He was responding to a New York Times report that, after he fired James Comey as FBI director in 2017, the bureau began investigating whether the president had acted on behalf of Russia.
Trump also accused Hillary Clinton, without evidence, of breaking the law by lying to the FBI. He claimed that Comey was corrupt and best friends with special counsel Robert Mueller. He said Mueller was employing a team of Democrats – another misleading assertion – bent on taking him down.
Individually, the president’s claims were familiar. But as the special counsel’s inquiry edges
ever closer to him, Democrats threaten a blizzard of investigations of their own and the government shutdown reaches record lengths, Trump compiled all the threads of the conspiracy theory he has pushed for many months in an effort to discredit the investigation.
Trump accused the FBI of opening “for no reason” and “with no proof” an inquiry in 2017 into whether he had been working against American interests on behalf of Russia, painting his own actions toward Russia as “FAR tougher” than those of his predecessors.
The Times article, published Friday, said officials became so alarmed by Trump’s behavior surrounding his firing of Comey that they took the explosive step of opening a counterintelligence in- vestigation against him.
Naming several of the FBI’s departed top officials, including Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, Trump said the FBI had “tried to do a number on your President.” “Part of the Witch Hunt,” he wrote – referring dismissively to the investigation being overseen by Mueller.
At the time he was fired in May 2017, Comey had been leading the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the officials thought that his removal, in hindering the inquiry, posed a possible threat to national security. Their decision to open the case was informed, in part, by two instances in which Trump tied the firing to the Russia investigation.
The inquiry had two aspects, including both the newly disclosed counterintelligence element and a criminal element that has long been publicly known: whether the firing constituted obstruction of justice.
When Mueller was appointed days later, he took over the joint inquiry as part of his larger investigation of Russia’s action in 2016 and whether anyone on the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow. It’s not clear whether he is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and no public evidence has emerged that Trump secretly conspired with the Russian government or took directions from it.
Trump indicated Saturday that he hadn’t known of the existence of the counterintelligence investigation before the Times article, and he didn’t dispute the reporting.
But he made clear that he viewed any such inquiry as illegitimate. He present- ed it, without evidence, as part of a vast conspiracy to undo his presidency.
In the tweets, he defended his decision to fire Comey – “a total sleaze!” – accusing Comey of overseeing a “rigged & botched” investigation of Clinton, and leading the agency into “complete turmoil.” Democrats and Republicans alike wanted Comey removed, he said.
“My firing of James Comey was a great day for America,” Trump wrote. “He was a Crooked Cop.”
But an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general and internal surveys of FBI agents have undercut Trump’s portrayal of Comey as corrupt and unpopular within the bureau.
Trump’s comments echoed those that White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders released Friday night.
“This is absurd. James Comey was fired because