President Trump on Tuesday blamed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, suggesting in a morning tweet that the probe could have been shut down by now if Sessions had not recused himself.
In the tweet, Trump renewed a familiar line of attack against the top U.S. law enforcement official, whom he has repeatedly castigated for recusing himself from the investigation now led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself,” Trump said in the tweet. “I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined...and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!”
The investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign was opened by the FBI in July 2016, months before Trump was elected president and long before he nominated Sessions to be attorney general.
Trump’s tweet seems to suggest that Sessions, who was among Trump’s earliest and most vocal campaign supporters, could have quashed the case once in office if he had not recused himself — or at least if he had not allowed the appointment of a special counsel.
Besides investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mueller is also investigating whether Trump has obstructed the probe.
After Sessions recused himself, supervision of the investigation fell to Dana Boente, then Sessions’s deputy, and later to Rod J. Rosenstein, after he was confirmed to the No. 2 post in the Justice Department.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the investigation in May 2017.
Trump has repeatedly raged over Sessions’s recusal, and the president’s efforts to shame his attorney general into quitting or reversing the recusal are of interest to Mueller’s investigators.
Even before Sessions stepped aside, Trump had the White House counsel call the attorney general to try to persuade him not to do so. Afterward, in March 2017, Trump confronted the attorney general about the matter personally. Sessions told the president that undoing the recusal would cause more harm than good.
People familiar with Sessions’s thinking have said he viewed recusing himself as unavoidable, given his role in the Trump presidential campaign. The move was recommended by career ethics officials at the Justice Department.
The president’s tweet, curiously, conceded that Sessions had insider knowledge — claiming he “ knew better than most that there was No Collusion!” That would seem to make a strong case that recusal was appropriate.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the president’s tweet.
Just last week, Trump went on Twitter to say that he wished he had picked someone other than Sessions to be his attorney general.