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.
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
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.
President Trump confirms he is being investigated for obstruction of justice. https://t.co/S0DYcH9K1r— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) June 15, 2017
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.
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
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.