Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the Russia probe “case closed.” But President Donald Trump is not helping his party move on, instead offering up a lengthy list of grievances on Thursday.
At an event intended to promote Trump’s push for Congress to eliminate “surprise” medical bills, the president spent roughly 30 minutes talking to reporters about his still-fresh gripes — from special counsel Robert Mueller’s supposed conflicts of interest to the subpoenaing of his eldest son by a GOP-led Senate committee. He weighed in on other controversies, too, namely former Secretary of State John Kerry’s interactions with Iran and John Bolton’s national security advice.
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Trump also expressed confidence that he would prevail over House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, whose panel would be in charge of initiating impeachment proceedings and who Trump said had been “conning” the country.
“Two years I’ve been going through this nonsense and now we have a good report, and now guys like Jerry Nadler, when I fought for many years successfully, I might add, back in New York in Manhattan, he was a Manhattan congressman,” Trump told reporters of the men’s past spats. “And I beat him all the time and I come to Washington and now I have to beat him again over nothing. Over nothing. Over a hoax.”
Trump also jabbed at the high esteem in which Democrats have held the Mueller report, referring to it playfully as “the Bible” and questioning why Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. for follow-up questioning when Mueller had found “no collusion and essentially no obstruction.”
“My son was totally exonerated by Mueller, who frankly does not like Donald Trump — me, this Donald Trump — and frankly for my son after being exonerated to now get a subpoena to go again and speak again after close to 20 hours of telling everybody that would listen about a nothing meeting, yeah, I’m pretty surprised,” Trump said of the subpoena that was revealed Wednesday.
The president was asked whether Mueller should be allowed to testify before Congress, which Trump has waffled on, including proclaiming over the weekend that the special counsel “should not testify.”
After clarifying that he would leave that decision to Attorney General William Barr, Trump launched into a four-minute rant, insisting that despite his decision to invoke executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report just the day before, there had been nobody “in the history of our country more transparent than me.”
Still, he claimed, Mueller was “no friend of mine.” He and his team, Trump said, were rife with “tremendous” conflicts of interest, assertions that have been repeatedly debunked. Among the supposed conflicts were Mueller’s 2011 withdrawal from Trump National Golf Club in suburban Washington that he labeled a “business dispute,” as well as the fact that Mueller had been interviewed to replace James Comey as FBI director after Trump fired Comey — an incident Mueller ended up investigating after he was named special counsel days later.
He cited Mueller’s past history with Comey as an additional conflict, claiming the special counsel was “in love” with Comey and that the two are “supposedly best friends” — never mind that Mueller was also close with Trump’s attorney general.
The supposed conflicts have been laid out by Trump in public and in private, according to a redacted version of Mueller’s report, forming the basis for Trump’s alleged attempts to have him fired — another incident central to Mueller’s obstruction investigation — which aides have argued would have been justified.
And he unloaded about Mueller’s team, claiming that the special counsel compiled a team of “angry Democrats” for the investigation and contended that they were determined to find some evidence of wrongdoing.
“With all of this they came back, no collusion,” Trump told ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “There’s nobody in this room, including you — that’s you, Jon, if we looked at you with $40 million, 18 angry people that hated you and all of the other things I mentioned, they’ll find something.”
Trump also touched on a slew of other topics in his unexpected news conference, including North Korea’s recent missile launches, a looming trade war with China — “we can’t have that” — escalating tensions with Iran — John Kerry “should be prosecuted” for meeting with the country’s foreign minister, he charged — and European countries’ contributions to NATO.
He tried to play down a report that he was frustrated with the hawkish instincts of national security adviser John Bolton, but instead acknowledged that he has to “temper” Bolton and keep him in check.
But while Trump used Thursday’s press availability to get a raft of concerns off his chest, his railing against congressional Democrats and his urging them to get on with legislating arguably risked overshadowing the initiative he had been there to promote — a rare issue that has bipartisan consensus on the Hill.