clock menu more-arrow no yes

Trump is mad online about being investigated for obstructing justice

Following a late-Wednesday Washington Post report that President Donald Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice (as part of Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe), Trump took to Twitter early Thursday morning to respond. But in what appears to be an attempt to mock the report, Trump may have inadvertently confirmed it.

Or maybe he didn’t. It’s not really clear.

Wednesday evening saw a flurry of headlines about Trump being officially under investigation for obstructing justice. (He had not been for most of this year.) So, at 6:55 am on Thursday, Trump fired off an attempt to discredit the report.

There’s a lot to unpack here. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reads it as Trump confirming that he is under investigation for obstructing justice. Lizza appears to believe that Trump’s “they” who are now going “for obstruction justice” refers to law enforcement and/or intelligence community probes into his conduct.

If that’s the case, Trump is saying that law enforcement failed to nail him down on the “phony” Russia story and so is now pursuing the obstruction charge. This would amount to an implicit admission that the Washington Post report is accurate.

But there’s another way to read what the president is trying to say. Another interpretation of Trump’s tweet isn’t that “they” refers to special counsel Robert Mueller, but rather that “they” refers to the mainstream media, a recurring villain in Trump’s tweets, who Trump has frequently accused of inventing “the Russia story.” In that reading, Trump appears to be saying that the media is inventing a storyline about him being under investigation for obstruction justice — rather than confirming than the investigation is real.

Indeed, about an hour later Thursday morning, Trump sent another tweet that bolsters the case for the second interpretation. Trump reiterated his claim that he was a victim of the greatest witch hunt in American history, but again didn’t identify his precise foes — instead citing “some very bad and conflicted people.” This description fits very closely to what he’s said about the media and his political opposition in the past.

Then again, the president has called former FBI Director James Comey a “showboat” and “grandstander,” and reportedly called him “crazy” and “a real nut job” to Russian officials. So Trump could simply be widening his definition of “very bad and conflicted people” to include Justice Department officials and appointments.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.