Political News

Trump acknowledges for first time he's under investigation

Posted June 16

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 15, 2017, during an event on Apprenticeship and Workforce of Tomorrow initiatives. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

— President Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Friday that he is under federal investigation as part of the expanding probe into Russia's election meddling. He lashed out at a top Justice Department official overseeing the inquiry, reflecting his mounting frustration with the unrelenting controversy that has consumed his early presidency.

"I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt," the president wrote on Twitter.

His morning missive apparently referred to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general whose role leading the federal investigation has become increasingly complicated. The White House has used a memo he wrote to justify Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, but that Trump action may now be part of the probe. Thursday night, Rosenstein issued an unusual statement complaining about leaks in the case.

Trump advisers and confidants describe the president as increasingly angry over the investigation, yelling at television sets in the White House carrying coverage and insisting he is the target of a conspiracy to discredit — and potentially end — his presidency. Some of his ire is aimed at Rosenstein and investigative special counsel Robert Mueller, both of whom the president believes are biased against him, associates say.

Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she was "increasingly concerned" that Trump will fire both Mueller and Rosenstein.

"The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn't apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired," Feinstein said. "That's undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president's oath of office."

Aides have counseled the president to stay off Twitter and focus on other aspects of his job. They have tried to highlight the positive reviews he received Wednesday when he made a statesman-like appearance in the White House to address the nation after Rep. Steve Scalise was shot during a congressional baseball practice.

Yet Trump's angry tweets on Friday underscored the near-impossible challenge his advisers and legal team have in trying to get him to avoid weighing in on an active probe.

The president has denied that he has any nefarious ties to Russia and has also disputed that he's attempted to block the investigation into his campaign's possible role in Russia's election-related hacking. It was unclear whether his tweet about being under investigation was based on direct knowledge or new media reports that suggest Mueller is examining whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey.

The tweets came shortly after Rosenstein issued his unusual statement that appeared to be warning about the accuracy of such reports.

"Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations," Rosenstein said. "The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations."

The department would not comment on the record on whether Trump, who has repeatedly complained about leaks on the case, requested the statement. But a department official said no one asked for the statement and Rosenstein acted on his own. The official demanded anonymity because the official was not authorized to be named discussing the deliberations.

Trump has told associates he has the legal authority to fire Mueller. What is clear is that he could order the Justice Department to ax Mueller, which may result in Rosenstein's departure and would certainly intensify the uproar over the investigation. Though some in the White House have preached caution, fearing a repeat of the firestorm over Comey's firing, many in Trump's orbit — including his son Donald Trump Jr. and adviser Newt Gingrich — have deemed Mueller biased and worthy of dismissal.

Several White House officials and Trump associates insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the president's views of the unfolding investigation.

Rosenstein has been overseeing the Russia probe since shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. But Rosenstein, too, may ultimately have to hand off oversight given his role in Trump's decision to fire Comey.

Earlier this month, Rosenstein told The Associated Press that "if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation then, as Director Mueller and I discussed, if there's a need from me to recuse, I will."

Trump's tweets came after the top lawyer for his transition team warned the organization's officials to preserve all records and other materials related to the Russia probe. An official of Trump's transition confirmed the lawyer's internal order, which was sent Thursday.

The order from the general counsel for the transition team casts a wide net on documents that could shed light on ties between Trump's presidential campaign and representatives of Russia's government. The order also covers separate inquiries into several key Trump associates including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign adviser Paul Manafort, foreign policy aide Carter Page and outside adviser Roger Stone.

The White House has directed questions for details to outside legal counsel, which has not responded.

Vice President Mike Pence has also hired a private lawyer to represent his interests in the expanding probe. Pence headed the Trump transition until Inauguration Day.

Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, also has retained an attorney to represent him. Cohen has worked for Trump since the mid-2000s and was active in the campaign. He has already been subpoenaed by the House intelligence committee.

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Associated Press writers Steve Braun, Sadie Gurman, Eric Tucker, Mary Clare Jalonick and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Jonathan Lemire at http://twitter.com/JonLemire

45 Comments

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  • William Sherman Jun 17, 7:42 a.m.
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    An opinion voiced again--be it chock full of inaccuracies, false statements, and typical leftist/liberal/ democratic stuff. Want to discuss the Constitution and who ( whom) paid how much attention to it the last 8 years? How many times was Obama caught ignoring the Constitution if not breaking it outright? Want to talk more about the Constitution??? How about Hillary and her "stuff" during her term as Sec of State??? So please--if you are going to discuss national legal affairs, do so accurately. Thanks.

  • Norman Lewis Jun 17, 1:48 a.m.
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    Anyone else sick to death of the Liberal BS attacks on our President? The whole Russia thing is a made up issue for Democrats to complain about. The only thing Russia may have done, if anything at all, is to expose things the Democratic Party should not have done anyway. The Democrats never complained about the President and Congress running roughshod over the people of the United States and the Constitution as long as they thought they would be in charge after the election of 2016. Our second Amendment of the Constitution was enacted to prevent and discourage the very sort of strong arm takeover of civil authority the Democrats had in mind the whole election. God forbid the nightmare the US people would have had should Hillary have won last November. One more comment, "tax cuts" NEVER COST anything, they are only a revenue reduction event. Budgets should be ironclad, not subject to last minute "adjustment" by incompetent managers.

  • Lamario Kelly Jun 16, 7:32 p.m.
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    I really hope you do not think Trump was the reason for all of that. If you think in his first 100 days he did all that then I will let you have that thought. Remember every President inherits the pros and cons of the last one until they have put time in.

  • Kevin Weidner Jun 16, 7:12 p.m.
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    Sources familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly about it are reporting that Trump is now officially under "Double Secret Probation".

  • Henry Cooper Jun 16, 6:49 p.m.
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    Any other president that kept a Ford plant out of Mexico, trimmed billions from the new Stealth fighter deal. The stock market is doing well. The housing market is better and will continue to do so as long as the fed will bump the rate up as they have to keep it level between buyer and seller (it has become a buyers market due to cheap money).

    This president is far from perfect but domestically the economy/country is doing well.

    The media does not cover this... they want the click bait about investigations that will have little bearing on daily life.

  • Lamario Kelly Jun 16, 6:32 p.m.
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    I'm only going to say this based on the evidence I see at hand. Why do more Conservatives love to use the words "Liberals or Democrats" to always justify something wrong with our system. And also why do Democrats love to think all Conservatives are far right. That is the problem right here, we are so divided that it is becoming increasingly frustrating. I'm no Trump fan, but I respect the president regardless of what party they are affiliated with. But in my opinion just based on the things Trump has done, said and even acted upon has not been very leader like. If he is guilty then he should be impeached and if he is innocent then the ones responsible for this should be punished. It is as simple as that, because all this back and forth bickering between Americans is plain disheartening being that he is the president of all of us.

  • Sierra Thomas Jun 16, 6:03 p.m.
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    so this "play" is actually being put on by a Republican led congress and FBI figures who were put in place by Trump. This has nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with making sure government officials aren't colluding with a hostile environment.

  • Henry Cooper Jun 16, 5:35 p.m.
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    Wow... someone went Star Wars ref to try to discredit someone...

    This is like children .... smh

  • John Archer Jun 16, 4:53 p.m.
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    It looks to me like the Democrats are the only ones these days who are worried about the Constitution at all. The GOP Congress has gone power mad, and POTUS keeps tripping over himself issuing EOs that keep getting thrown out because they are unconstitutional. He has no idea what he's doing. And just because he was elected, doesn't give him the Constitutional right to break the law. Oh, and illegal border crossings from Mexico have been rapidly declining for the last 10 years. And that tax reform will not benefit you or I one bit, except for taking away some of the deductions us little people are allowed to take. As for ACA, been nice knowing you. Tax cuts for the rich means higher premiums, max caps on medical procedures, and back to ER visits for head colds. The GOP has brainwashed their followers into thinking they have their backs. All they care about is tax cuts for the rich and that's it.

  • Henry Cooper Jun 16, 4:49 p.m.
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    Ahhh Things are normal on WRAL. One extreme or another with zero middle ground.

    SNA
    FU....

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