Trump blasts Russia probe as ‘attempted coup’
US President Donald Trump has blasted as an “attempted coup” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his alleged ties with Russia, the findings of which will be released in redacted form soon.
“It was an illegal investigation. It was started illegally. Everything about it was crooked,” Trump told reporters outside the White House before heading to Texas. “This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president, and we beat them.”
The remarks came only a day after US Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers in the House of Representatives that he would release a redacted version of Mueller’s 300-page report to Congress within days before making a more heavily redacted version public.
Barr told the House Appropriations Committee that Mueller did not find evidence of any criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to disrupt the 2016 election, contrary to a long-standing claim pushed forward by Democrats and Trump’s opponents.
When the report was first handed to Barr, he said Mueller did not make a determination as to whether Trump had obstructed justice in firing former FBI director James Comey in the case.
However, after reviewing the report, Barr said he had determined there wasn’t enough evidence to bring obstruction of justice charges against the Republican president.
‘Trump campaign was spied on’
Meanwhile, Barr suggested told lawmakers in a separate hearing on Wednesday that Trump’s presidential campaign had been secretly spied on, reviving old claims by Republicans that former President Barack Obama had authorized illegal surveillance of his campaign affairs.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said. “I think spying did occur.”
Congressional Democrats fumed over Barr’s allegation, accusing him of mischaracterizing the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation to please Trump.
“I’m amazed that the AG would make that kind of statement, I think it’s in many ways disrespectful to the men and women who work in the DOJ, and it shows, I think, either a lack of understanding or willful ignorance on what goes into a counterintelligence investigation,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN.
Bloomberg said later on Wednesday that the AG had put together a team within the US Department of Justice to determine whether an FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was influenced by partisan bias.
The DOJ inspector general has already been investigating possible FISA court abuses by FBI officials who used a so-called Trump dossier, which reportedly contains damaging information on the president, to obtain a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump aide.
Barr said Tuesday that the IG’s investigation was likely to conclude as early as May or June.