President Donald Trump attacked special counsel Robert Mueller’s credibility Saturday, disparaging former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey as Washington waits for Mueller’s report in the coming weeks.
In a largely unscripted, wide-ranging speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference lasting more than two hours, Trump hit on several key issues in a characteristic fashion — mocking proponents of the Green New Deal, vowing to protect free speech on college campuses with an executive order and taking shots at his longtime rival and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
But he made a point to take on Mueller, commenting extensively on key parts of the investigation, as the probe appears to be winding down.
“So now we’re waiting for a report, and we’ll find out … who we’re dealing with,” Trump said. “We’re waiting for a report by people that weren’t elected.”
“You put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there, and all of a sudden, they’re trying to take you out with bullshit, OK,” he added.
The president lambasted Mueller as an unelected prosecutor running unchecked and accused the special counsel’s team of investigators of being stacked against him.
“Robert Mueller never received a vote and neither did the person that appointed him,” Trump said in an apparent reference to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was appointed by Trump and named Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.
“Robert Mueller put 13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country on the commission,” Trump said, adding, “One of them as involved with the Hillary Clinton Foundation, running it. Another one has perhaps the worst reputation of any human being I’ve ever seen — all killers. In fact, it would have been actually better for them if they put half and half and Mueller can do whatever he wants anyway, which he’ll probably do.”
While one of the Mueller team’s lawyers, Jeannie Rhee, previously represented the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit and several of the lawyers have made personal donations to Democrats in the past, the majority of them have been longstanding Department of Justice employees.
Trump also argued that Mueller was compromised due to his prior interest in being FBI director after Trump fired James Comey, and repeated a favorite allegation that Mueller and Comey are “best friends.” Comey has said in the past that he and Mueller are not best friends.
He also bashed Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation and delegate overseeing Mueller to Rosenstein, impersonating Sessions with a thick Southern accent.
“The attorney general says, ‘I’m going to recuse myself,’ and I said, why the hell didn’t he tell me that before I put him in?” Trump said. “How do you recuse yourself?”
He also attacked Sessions as useless, lamenting that using his powers to hire and fire cabinet members under Article 2 would have been seen as obstruction — a standard that he alleged was “only for Trump.”
“The Attorney General recuses himself, and I don’t fire him, no obstruction,” Trump said. “That’s the other thing — if you use your rights, if you use your power, if you use Article 2, it’s called obstruction, but only for Trump, for nobody else. So the attorney general is weak and ineffective and he doesn’t do what he should have done.”
Trump fired Sessions in November following an increasingly strained relationship and months of personal attacks by the President.
He also recounted Comey’s firing as being due to the former FBI director being “a bad, bad guy,” saying that he had discussed it at the time with first lady Melania Trump and that he had anticipated bipartisan support after Democrats voiced criticism of Comey.
“I said Melania, I’m doing something today, I’m doing it because it really has to be done … he’s a bad, bad guy, that’s been proven now with all of the emails,” Trump said. “I said to the first lady, I said, but you know the good news, the good news is that this is going to be so bipartisan, everyone’s going o love it — so we fired Comey.”
“I fire a bad cop, I fire a dirty cop, and all of a sudden, the Democrats say, ‘how dare he fire him, how dare he do this,’” Trump added.
Trump told NBC in May 2017 that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey, adding that he was irked by the investigation, which he saw as motivated by Democratic anger over his 2016 win.
By Caroline Kelly, CNN