Donald Trump has hit out again at Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation for Mr Mueller not being confirmed by the US Senate. The president has claimed – without evidence – there are ”conflicts” that needed to be addressed.
“Mueller was not Senate confirmed,” the president said. “Why didn’t they get him Senate confirmed?”. Mr Mueller had in fact been Senate confirmed when becoming the director of the FBI in 2001.
“Because of all his conflicts, they didn’t want to bring him before the Senate because he is very conflicted,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House, without giving any indication of what any conflicts might be.
There is no legal requirement for a special counsel to be confirmed by the Senate.
The attack was prompted by a question about a possible confirmation hearing for new acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker who wil oversee Mr Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials. Mr Whitaker has replaced replaced Jeff Sessions who was forced out by Mr Trump earlier this week.
Mr Trump claimed that Mr Whitaker was “confirmed at the highest level” because he was a federal prosecutor in Iowa. He said that Mr Mueller was not Senate confirmed so “don’t talk to me about Whitaker”.
The president said that he “did not know” Mr Whitaker and that he had not talked to him about the Mueller probe before his appointment.
Asked whether he wanted Mr Whitaker to “rein in” Mr Mueller, Mr Trump responded: “What a stupid question.”
However, Mr Trump has repeated called the investigation a “witch hunt” and did not hold back on his way out of the White House for a trip to Paris.
He called the Mueller probe a “phoney hoax” and a “Russian hoax” before repeating his denial of any collusion to get him elected in the 2016 presidential election.
The White House has faced questions over some of Mr Whitaker's previous comments. One month prior to taking the post at the Department of Justice, Mr Whitaker wrote an op-ed for CNN arguing that if Mr Mueller “were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel's investigation was a mere witch hunt.”
In August 2017, Mr Whitaker said on CNN that if the special counsel “does go beyond the 2016 election and get into Trump Organisation finances unrelated to the 2016 election, and really unrelated to Russian coordination if it even exists, I think that would be crossing a red line.”