President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the Justice Department, accusing top officials of going “crazy” and calling the ongoing Russia investigation a “witch hunt.” He’s toyed with firing the investigation’s head, special counsel Robert Mueller, telling reporters “we’ll see what happens.”
But on Thursday morning, the president called in to his favorite TV show, Fox & Friends, and said he’s not going to interfere with Mueller’s work — at least for the moment.
“I have decided that I won’t be involved,” Trump said. “I may change my mind at some point because what’s going on is a disgrace.”
The interview, which went on for half an hour, also covered Trump’s thoughts on the ongoing legal battle surrounding the FBI raid on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen is fighting a federal prosecutor in New York over which documents the FBI can review from the raid, which grew out of an investigation into Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006. The Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether that payment may have violated campaign finance and banking laws.
Trump said he had “nothing to do” with Cohen’s personal businesses, claiming that the Cohen investigation is about Cohen’s business holdings. “I’m not involved, and I’ve been told I’m not involved,” Trump said.
Yet this directly contradicts what his own lawyer has said in court. Trump hired an attorney, Joanna Hendon, shortly after the raid. During a hearing on April 13, Hendon told a federal judge that Trump has “an acute interest in this matter.”
So in two major parts of the Fox interview, on Mueller and on Cohen, Trump’s comments clash with what he’s said and done in the past. Between the Cohen case and the ongoing negotiations with Mueller over a potential interview for the Russia investigation with Trump himself, Trump is facing legal battles on all sides.
But there’s a flip side to this. If Trump’s comments aren’t always a good guide to his actions, then his comments about the Justice Department are no guarantee that he won’t interfere with the Russia investigation in the future. Indeed, Trump openly admitted as much in the interview.
So it may seem, after this interview, like Mueller has a little more time to try to build his case. But it’s hard to be sure.