Trump insists ‘there was no Russia collusion‘ and believes Mueller probe ‘is going to be fair‘ – but president still claims he has the ‘absolute right‘ to do what he wants with the DOJ
President said Thursday that he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller will treat him fairly in his investigation into possible collusion between the 2016 campaign and .
‘There‘s been no collusion. But I think he‘s going to be fair,‘ Trump told the in an interview at his golf club in West Palm Beach, .
The president re-asserted his point about collusion 16 times during the half-hour interview at his golf course in Palm beach, Florida, evn citing liberal legal scholar Alan Dershowitz in his defense.
‘I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day,‘ Trump said. ‘He said, “No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion”.‘
Trump supporters and other have raised questions about the professionalism and objectivity of Mueller‘s team, and rumors have swirled through Washington that the president could be preparing to fire him.
However, the White House insists that option is not currently on the table.
Trump added that the investigation ‘makes the country look very bad and it puts the country in a very bad position.
‘So the sooner it‘s worked out, the better it is for the country.‘
The president also brought up Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama‘s attorney general, suggesting he was more loyal than his own Jeff Sessions.
‘I don‘t want to get into loyalty, but I will say this,‘ Trump told the Times, an outlet he has been feuding with since the early days of the presidential campaign season.
‘Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I‘ll be honest.‘
He said it was ‘too bad‘ that Sessions decided to recuse himself from the Russia Investigation.
But Trump insisted he has the power to do what he‘d like with the Justice Department – particularly if he wants to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
‘I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,‘ Trump said.
‘But for purposes of hopefully think[ing] I‘m going to be treated fairly, I‘ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.‘
A poll conducted by CNN last week found that more Americans approve than disapprove of how Mueller is handling the Russian investigation. A majority of Americans also said they disapprove of Trump‘s handling of the same investigation
Trump also told the Times he has ‘been soft‘ on China on trade and complained about oil shipments to North Korea despite sanctions over Pyongyang‘s nuclear program.
After a South Korean media report Wednesday said U.S. spy satellites saw Chinese ships illegally tranferring oil to North Korean boats dozens of times since October, Trump said his patience is running thin.
‘Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn‘t my deal!‘ he said.
‘If they don‘t help us with North Korea, then I do what I‘ve always said I want to do.‘
He referred to North Korea as a ‘nuclear menace‘ and said China must ‘help us much more‘ to contain Kim Jong-Un.
A poll conducted by CNN last week found that more Americans approve than disapprove of how Mueller is handling the Russian investigation. A majority of Americans also said they disapprove of Trump‘s handling of the same investigation.
These comments came after Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon, saying: ‘Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!‘
Trump also told the Times that he expects to win the presidency again in 2020, saying that news outlets would have to back him at that time because otherwise ‘ratings‘ would ‘go down the tubes.‘
He also said that he had to endorse failed Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore because he‘s ‘head of the party,‘ and hailed his recently passed tax bill, saying he ‘knows the details of taxes better than anybody,‘ and ‘the details of healthcare better than most.‘
The comments about Mueller to the New York Times came a few days after more than 40 bipartisan former government officials and attorneys told President Trump and Congress to leave Mueller alone so he can do his job.
In two letters on Friday, December 22, the former US attorneys and Republican and conservative officials pushed back against efforts to discredit the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The letters come a week after speculation that Trump wanted Mueller fired over recent revelations that two former FBI agents, assigned to invest the alleged collusion between Trump‘s campaign and Russia, had sent each other hundreds of ‘anti-Trump‘ text messages during the campaign and election.
In a pair of letters, the groups said Robert Mueller and his team must be allowed to continue their work, unimpeded.
In one letter, 22 former US attorneys, who served under presidents from Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, said it is ‘critical‘ to the ‘interests of justice and public trust to ensure that those charged with conducting complex investigations are allowed to do their jobs free from interference or fear of reprisal.‘
Seeking Mueller‘s removal ‘would have severe repercussions for Americans‘ sense of justice here at home and for our reputation for fairness around the world,‘ they wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday that was coordinated by Georgetown Law‘s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.
The second letter was signed by 22 Republican and conservative former members of Congress and other top US officials. It stated that efforts to discredit Mueller‘s work ‘undermine the institutions that protect the rule of law and so our nation.‘
‘We urge the Administration, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and the American public, to support the work of Special Counsel Mueller to its conclusion, whatever it may be,‘ reads the open letter signed by officials including former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, former State Department counselor Eliot Cohen and former George W. Bush administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel in the Russia probe in May.
Allies of the president have seized on the messages and other details about Mueller‘s team to allege it is biased against Trump.
Trump has repeatedly called investigations into his campaign a ‘witch hunt‘ fueled by Democrats still angry about his election win.
Still, Trump and White House officials have said recently that he has no intention of firing Mueller. That decision that would likely be up to Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller.