WASHINGTON (AFP) – 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 SC 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.