‘I have headaches’: Who is annoying Trump in the Russia probe – Washington Post
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President Trump gave an interview to the New York Times on Wednesday in which he openly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his recusal from the Russia investigation. Sessions was one of the first senators to endorse Trump when he was still a candidate and has been one of his most ardent supporters. The comments are a remarkable public break between the president and his attorney general. The following morning, Sessions said he will continue to stay in his role.
Trump has now attacked almost everyone in charge of the Russia investigation. Here is a look at the people Trump has been annoyed with and why:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Trump: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”
What Trump is talking about: Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after The Washington Post reported he had failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign in testimony at his confirmation hearing. Sessions said his recusal was simply because he served on the Trump campaign as an adviser, but he also faced pressure because of the undisclosed contacts with the ambassador, at the Republican National Convention and in his Senate office.
Former FBI director James B. Comey
New York Times reporter Peter Baker: Given what’s happened since then, though, was it a political mistake to have fired him, given what’s happened?
Trump: I think I did a great thing for the American people. …
New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt: But look at the headache it’s caused, you know?
Trump: It’s okay. I have headaches, that’s what I have, I have headaches. … But you know what, I think I did a great thing for the American people.
What Trump is talking about: Trump fired Comey in May and later admitted the Russia investigation was on his mind when he did it. “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” Trump told NBC News’s Lester Holt. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III
Schmidt: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?
Trump: I would say yeah. I would say yes. … I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.
What Trump is talking about: Trump said it would be a “violation” for Mueller to go beyond the investigation into any coordination between his campaign and Russian officials and look into his family’s finances. Trump did not rule out the possibility that Mueller could be fired.
Trump has also sought to cast doubt on Mueller’s probe by pointing out that he has hired lawyers who donated to Democratic political candidates, including Hillary Clinton. A day after Mueller was appointed, Trump tweeted: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”
Other Trump allies are also calling into question Mueller’s neutrality, but ethics experts and lawyers said his team’s political contributions are not a conflict, though some have said they create an impression of bias.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein
Trump: ‘That’s Rosenstein — Rod Rosenstein — who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore. … Rosenstein leaves the office. The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts?”
What Trump is talking about: Rosenstein penned a three-page memo that was used as justification for firing Comey and he also appointed Mueller as the special counsel in May. Rosenstein took over the Russia probe after Sessions recused himself. Trump has previously cited the fact that Rosenstein had sent him a memo at Trump’s request pointing to Comey’s failures as FBI director. “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” Trump tweeted. While Rosenstein at the time wasn’t technically investigating Trump himself, it was clear he was the one being referenced by Trump.
Trump’s comments about Rosenstein being from Baltimore, meanwhile, are intended to paint Rosenstein as a Democrat. Trump nominated him to his current post.
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates
Although not named in the interview, Yates played a key role in the Russia investigation: She informed the White House counsel that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was compromised because of his dealings with the Russians. At that point, the scope of the Russia investigation and its focus on the Trump team wasn’t well known.
Yates defied Trump in January when she ordered federal attorneys not to defend his travel ban on immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. Trump fired her shortly after her refusal to defend the ban.
Before her testimony to the Senate in May, Trump suggested Yates may know something about classified information being leaked. “Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council,” Trump tweeted, misspelling counsel.
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