President Donald Trump blasted the Monday raid by federal authorities of the home, hotel, and office of his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen as “a disgrace” and “an attack on our country.”
“They broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it’s a disgraceful situation,” Trump told reporters before a meeting with military leaders to discuss chemical weapons in Syria. “It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down. We’ve given, I believe, over a million pages’ worth of documents to the special counsel.”
Trump then said he would have chosen a different attorney general if he’d known Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and said that “many people” have said he should fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump on Cohen: “An attack on our country”
The warrants in the Cohen case were reportedly obtained by prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. Investigators are reportedly looking into the $130,000 “hush money” payment Cohen made to porn actress Stormy Daniels before the election; whether the raid is at all tied to the Russia investigation isn’t clear at this point.
Either way, Trump angrily referred to the raid on Cohen as a “disgrace.”
“It’s a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense,” he said. “It’s an attack on what we all stand for, so when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did, I said that is really now in a whole new level of unfairness.”
Trump is also still mad about Sessions’s recusal
The president also complained about Session’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, a longtime sticking point for Trump, who felt that his top Justice Department official should have done more to protect him.
“The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself, or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in,” Trump said. “So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country, but you’ll figure that out.”
Trump’s dissatisfaction with Sessions’s recusal has loomed over the attorney general’s tenure; critics fear the president might try to oust Sessions and replace him with a more pliable AG who won’t have to recuse himself from the investigation and could stymie or shut down the special counsel’s probe.
Trump was asked why he didn’t fire Mueller — and talked about Rosenstein in response
“Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” Trump repeated when a reporter asked. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace, but I think it’s a sad situation when you look at what happened and many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing, and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”
In a somewhat rambling statement, Trump then invoked Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversees the special counsel investigation.
Trump brought up the letter Rosenstein wrote about former FBI Director James Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation, which was originally given as the justification to fire Comey. (Trump later admitted that it was, at least in part, because of the Russia investigation.)
Trump responds to question "Why don't I just fire Mueller"— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) April 9, 2018
"Many people have said you should fire him... we'll see what happens, I think this is disgraceful and so do a lot of other people, this is a pure and simple witch hunt" pic.twitter.com/llJrXhig42
“If you know the person who’s in charge of the investigation, you know all about that,” Trump said. “Deputy [Rod] Rosenstein ... he wrote the letter very critical of Comey. One of the things I said, ‘I fired Comey.’ Well, I turned out to do the right thing because you look at all of the things that he’s done and the lies and you look at what’s gone on at the FBI with the insurance policy and all of the things that happened, turned out I did the right thing.”
The “insurance policy” Trump is referring to relates to text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who were having an affair and, in their exchanges, made anti-Trump comments and mentioned the “insurance policy.” Republicans and Trump allies say that was code for an attempt to harm Trump’s presidency, and have used the texts as a talking point to claim bias in the Russia investigation.
Trump then went after Rosenstein for his role in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. “But he signed, as you know, he also signed the FISA warrant, so Rod Rosenstein, who’s in charge of this, signed a FISA warrant,” Trump said, before adding again that Rosenstein was right about Comey.
“So we’ll see what happens,” Trump added. “I think it’s disgraceful and so do a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch hunt.”