WASHINGTON—President Trump asserted on Thursday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is in complete disarray and a “disgrace to our Nation,” while adding that his White House is operating smoothly as news emerges of high level shake-ups.
In a series of tweets early Thursday, the president said “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess.”
“They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t…care how many lives the ruin.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how Mr. Trump came to these conclusions about the Mueller probe’s inner workings. The White House and Mr. Trump’s outside counsel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Justice and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Mr. Trump also described officials with the special counsel’s team as “Angry People” and described Mr. Mueller himself as “highly conflicted,” saying that he served under President Obama’s administration for eight years.
The statement about Mr. Mueller working for Mr. Obama for eight years is incorrect. Mr. Mueller served as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under President George W. Bush for nearly eight years. He remained FBI director under President Obama for four years, and he left the FBI in 2013.
“They won’t even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side,” Mr. Trump wrote. “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!”
Mr. Trump’s new Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker faces questions about his oversight of the investigation. Mr. Whitaker criticized the special counsel’s probe publicly before coming to the Justice Department as ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.
Mr. Sessions, who was forced to resign last week, just a day after the midterm elections, recused himself from oversight of the investigation in 2017. Democratic lawmakers have called on Mr. Whitaker to do the same.
The Justice Department defended the legality of Mr. Whitaker’s appointment on Wednesday, issuing a legal opinion saying that U.S. presidents throughout history had installed officials as temporary cabinet members without Senate approval.
The opinion is aimed at critics who say Mr. Whitaker’s installation is an invalid runaround the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate provide “advice and consent” for senior executive-branch nominations.
Mr. Mueller’s probe is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and possible obstruction of justice.
President Trump has repeatedly denied any obstruction or colluding with Russia, and Moscow has rejected assertions that it interfered in American politics.
Mr. Mueller’s office has previously sought to interview the president about the obstruction issue, including his firing last year of former FBI Director James Comey and his public attacks on Mr. Sessions before he was fired.
Mr. Trump hasn’t yet been interviewed by the special counsel as have a number of top campaign staff, as well as the former White House counsel. Last week at a freewheeling news conference after the elections, Mr. Trump maintained his authority to end the Mueller investigation “anytime I wanted. I didn’t. And there was no collusion. There was no anything.”
Mr. Trump and his lawyers are in the process of developing responses to written questions provided by Mr. Mueller’s investigators on the subject of collusion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The lawyers are expected to submit the responses by the end of the week.
After those questions are submitted, the president’s legal team has said it will discuss with the special counsel whether he still wants a sit-down interview with Mr. Trump. “I’d have to say…the lawyers are against it,” Rudy Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, said in an interview last week.
Separately, Mr. Trump said the White House is operating business as usual amid a series of postelection shake-ups and anticipated firings.
“The White House is running very smoothly and the results for our Nation are obviously very good. We are the envy of the world,” he said. “But anytime I even think about making changes, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA goes crazy, always seeking to make us look as bad as possible! Very dishonest!”
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump removed his deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, moving to quickly resolve an unusual feud pitting first lady Melania Trump against her husband’s National Security Council.
Ms. Ricardel lost Mrs. Trump’s support after a dispute involving the first lady’s trip to Africa last month, according to current and former administration officials. Aides to the two women clashed over whether the first lady’s plane would have seats for National Security Council staff, and relations deteriorated after that, these people said.
Advisers to the president described turbulence inside the White House in recent days, with aides jockeying for new positions left by officials who are departing or expected to depart.
Ms. Ricardel’s abrupt departure came amid a broader shake-up that could see the exit of chief of staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
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