Not so President Trump. On Thursday morning, he called into Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” for a long, and at times furious, interview covering a range of subjects. Nothing caused more obvious frustration to Trump, though, than questions about the investigation of possible coordination between his campaign and Russian actors during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“They have this witch hunt going on, with people in the Justice Department that shouldn’t be there, they have a witch hunt against the president of the United States going on,” Trump said. “I’ve taken the position — and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change — that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait till this is over. It’s a total — it’s all lies and it’s a horrible thing that’s going on.”
He bashed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team specifically.
“The problem is that it’s such a — if you take a look, they’re so conflicted,” he said. “The people that are doing the investigation, you have 13 people that are Democrats, you have Hillary Clinton people, you have people who worked on Hillary Clinton’s foundation. They’re all — I don’t mean Democrats, I mean, like, the real deal.”
As we’ve noted before, there are links between lawyers working for Mueller and Democratic candidates including Clinton and Barack Obama. But the decision-makers on the investigation — Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Mueller — are Republicans, and Rosenstein was appointed by Trump.
What’s interesting about the conversation between Trump and Fox News, though, is that Fox News released a poll Wednesday showing that most Americans side with Mueller — but that data was never presented to Trump to challenge his argument.
For example, Fox News pollsters asked if Americans thought Mueller and his team were treating Trump fairly. A fifth of Americans said they were extremely confident that he was; 64 percent said they were at least somewhat confident that Trump was being treated fairly.
Unsurprisingly, there was a sharp partisan split, with a third of Democrats expressing extreme confidence in Mueller’s impartiality and 45 percent of Republicans having no confidence in it.
What’s more, Trump’s frequent assertions that the investigation is unnecessary isn’t a view most Americans share. Two-thirds of Americans said it was at least somewhat important that the investigations continue. More than half of Democrats said it was extremely important, while more than half of Republicans said it wasn’t important at all.
The most remarkable finding from Fox News’s poll is that more than half of Americans said it was at least somewhat likely that Mueller would turn up evidence of criminal or impeachable offenses. Most Republicans said it wasn’t at all likely — but even 22 percent of that group said it was at least somewhat likely.
(Mind you, “impeachable offenses” could mean just about anything.)
To hear Trump tell it (over and over), he has already been exonerated.
“The intelligence committee and everybody else has found no collusion — there’s no collusion with me and the Russians,” he said, referring to an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, which was curtailed before hearing from several central figures, including former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
There was some collusion, though, he said.
“By the way, the only collusion is with the Democrats and the Russians,” Trump argued. “You take a look at what’s going on there.”