President Trump on Wednesday tweeted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should end the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election “right now.”
“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” Trump tweeted.
Trump has previously called for the end to Robert Mueller's investigation. But Wednesday’s tweet is directed right at Sessions, who has recused himself from the investigation. The president has frequently directed his anger over the Russia probe at his attorney general. Last month, Trump blamed Mueller’s ongoing investigation on Sessions’ recusal from the probe, as he has done on several occasions since 2017.
A Department of Justice official declined to provide a comment to BuzzFeed News.
Both Trump’s lawyers and the White House insisted Wednesday that the president was only expressing his “opinions” on Twitter and that he had not directed the Department of Justice to take any action.
“It’s not an order,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a briefing. “It’s the president’s opinion and it’s ridiculous that all of the corruption and dishonesty that’s gone on with the launching of the witch hunt, the president wants to — has watched this process play out. But he also wants to see it come to an end as he stated many times. And we look forward to that happening.”
She later reiterated that the president was not “obstructing” justice by calling on Sessions to end the probe, but that he was “fighting back.”
“The president is stating his opinion. He’s stating it clearly,” Sanders said.
She added that the administration felt the Mueller investigation “should be completed,” but that it should end “sooner rather than later.”
“It’s gone on for an extensive amount of time,” Sanders said. “They’ve still come up with nothing in regards to the president. We’d like to see it come to a close.”
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said the president has an established history of using Twitter to voice his opinions.
“He used the medium that he uses for opinions...Twitter,” Giuliani told reporters. “He’s established a clear practice now that he expresses his opinions on Twitter. He used the word ‘should,’ he didn’t use the word ‘must’ and there was no presidential directive.”
However, both the White House and the Department of Justice have previously said that Trump’s tweets are official statements by the president, and judges have treated them as such in cases involving the administration.
As Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, he would not be able to stop it. Mueller could only be fired by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel after Sessions’ recusal.
When asked if Trump was aware of this when he called on Sessions to end the probe, Sanders told reporters, “The president is well aware of how the process works. He’s stating his opinion.”