As a grand jury begins work, defiant Trump calls Russia investigation a ‘fabrication’

On the day that several news sources reported that special counsel Robert Mueller has impanelled a grand jury to look into Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Trump defiantly told a cheering crowd at a rally in Huntington, W.Va., that the investigation is a “total fabrication.”

In his speech in West Virginia, a state he won by over 40 points last November, Trump repeated his assertion that the investigation is motivated by sour grapes on the part of Democrats frustrated over his victory.

“The Russia story is a total fabrication,” Trump said. “It’s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. It just makes [Democrats] feel better when they have nothing else to talk about.”

But that defiant posture is becoming harder to sustain as Mueller’s investigation grows both in seriousness and scope. The probe has been expanded to include Trump’s dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and the finances of Trump’s family and current former associates.

Mueller has also reportedly subpoenaed documents related to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting last year with a Russian lawyer who was offering information from Russian government sources about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

Several House and Senate committees are pursuing their own investigations of Russian influence on the presidential election.

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Huntington, W.Va. (Photo: Darron Cummings/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Huntington, W.Va. (Photo: Darron Cummings/AP)

Trump’s legal counsel was tight-lipped about the matter in a statement earlier in the day.

“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said in a statement. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. … The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”

But Trump said the investigation was intended to impede the work of his administration.

“Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign, there never were,” he proclaimed. “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here today? They can’t beat us at the voting booths so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future you deserve.”

He also continued to criticize members of Congress for their inaction in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Trump praised Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., who was in attendance, for her work on health care reform. Capito was reluctant to commit to the repeal bill that was defeated last week in the Senate, but ultimately voted in favor. Trump quickly called on lawmakers to follow through and roll back President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

While he did not attack any senators by name, Trump bemoaned the bill’s failure by a single vote, after three Republicans defected to join all 48 Democrats in opposing it.

“You have to do it,” Trump said of repealing the ACA. “Nothing in life is easy, but Congress must not give in. They must not give up, but instead Congress should get to work and deliver Americans the great health care they deserve, the great repeal and replace they’ve been talking about for seven years.”

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