Trump lashes out after Russia probe, cites 'treasonous' and 'evil' acts

By Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump lashed out at unnamed enemies on Monday, accusing them of evil actions and treason, a day after his attorney general released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings clearing the president's campaign of conspiring with Russia in the 2016 U.S. election.

Reuters March 26, 2019 01:07:23 IST
Trump lashes out after Russia probe, cites 'treasonous' and 'evil' acts

Trump lashes out after Russia probe cites treasonous and evil acts

By Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump lashed out at unnamed enemies on Monday, accusing them of evil actions and treason, a day after his attorney general released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings clearing the president's campaign of conspiring with Russia in the 2016 U.S. election.

"We're glad it's over. It's 100 percent the way it should have been," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker.

"There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country," Trump added without mentioning anyone by name or citing specific actions.

Attorney General William Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official, on Sunday released a four-page summary of the findings of Mueller's 22-month investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, but said the special counsel had concluded that Trump's campaign did not conspire with Moscow.

A fierce fight was brewing on Monday over how much of Mueller's Russia investigation findings should be made public. Democrats are demanding a full release but a lawyer for the president said key information - such as Trump's written responses in the inquiry - must be withheld.

Trump indicated that he wants new investigations, although he did not specify who would conduct them or who should be targeted. Trump in the past has called for investigations of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate he defeated in 2016.

"Those people will certainly be looked at. I've been looking at them for a long time," he said in the Oval Office while sitting alongside visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "And I'm saying, why haven't they been looked at? They lied to Congress. Many of them. And you know who they are.

"We can never let this happen to another president again."

The Mueller investigation had cast a cloud over the Republican Trump's presidency but he has declared himself fully exonerated by Barr's summary.

Trump had repeatedly accused Mueller, a former FBI director, of running a "witch hunt" with a team of "thugs" and having conflicts of interest. But when asked on Monday if Mueller had acted honorably, Trump said, "Yes."

GRAHAM ALSO WANTS INVESTIGATION

Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Trump ally, said he would ask Barr to appoint a special counsel to look into the origins of the Russia probe, which was first handled by the FBI and then by Mueller after the president fired the agency's director, James Comey.

Graham said it was time to look at the Clinton campaign and the origins of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page, which was based in part on information in a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who co-founded a private intelligence firm. Republicans said the FBI failed to disclose that Steele was hired by a firm funded by Democrats to do opposition research on Trump's business dealings.

Mueller, who submitted his confidential report on his findings to Barr on Friday, neither accused Trump of obstruction of justice in trying to impede the investigation nor exonerated him of obstruction, according to the summary. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, concluded the investigation's evidence "is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."

The end of the Mueller inquiry and Barr's summary handed Trump a political victory ahead of his 2020 re-election effort, but did not end the investigative pressure on the president. Democrats gave no indication of easing up on their multiple congressional investigations into Trump's business and personal dealings.

Mueller informed top Justice Department officials three weeks ago he would not reach a conclusion on the obstruction question - an unexpected move, a department official said.

Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, have called for Mueller's complete findings to be released to Congress and the public and vowed to call Barr - a Trump appointee who before taking the job had criticized Mueller's obstruction investigation - to appear before lawmakers to answer questions.

'PUNISHABLE BY DEATH'

In an appearance earlier in the day on NBC's "Today" program, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, "The media and Democrats have called the president an agent of a foreign government. That is an action equal to treason, which is punishable by death in this country."

Asked if Trump owed Mueller an apology, Sanders said, "I think Democrats and the liberal media owe the president and they owe the American people an apology. They wasted two years and created a massive disruption and distraction from things that ... impact everyone's day-to-day lives."

Sanders, in remarks to reporters, also urged congressional hearings to investigate a number of prominent Trump critics including former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey and other FBI figures.

Justice Department regulations give Barr broad authority to determine how much of the Mueller report to release. Democrats have threatened to go to court to win its release, if necessary.

While Trump last week said he would not mind if the whole report were disclosed, one of his lawyers, Jay Sekulow, on Monday said at least part should be withheld.

Sekulow said it "would be very inappropriate" to release the president's written answers to questions posed by the special counsel, calling the responses provided in November confidential. After lengthy negotiations, Trump reversed his previous stance that he would be willing to submit to an in-person interview with the Mueller team, ultimately agreeing only to provide written answers.

Sanders said there had been "no discussion that I'm aware of" about pardons for former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or any others who have been convicted or pleaded guilty in Mueller's investigation.

Mueller, in previous legal filings, described in elaborate detail a Russian campaign to interfere in the election through hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, harm Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump. Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officers, 13 other Russians accused of taking part in a disinformation campaign and three Russian companies in the meddling.

Several Trump advisers and associates also were among the 34 people charged in Mueller's investigation including his former national security adviser and personal lawyer.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Mark Hosenball, Sarah N. Lynch, Doina Chiacu, Makini Brice and Lawrence Hurley in Washington and Tom Balmforth and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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