President Trump on Monday made a fresh call to end the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, citing the release over the weekend of a previously classified application to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who was under suspicion by the FBI of being a Russian agent.
In a series of tweets, Trump falsely claimed that Mueller’s investigation was prompted by the surveillance. Trump and other Republicans have accused the FBI of relying too heavily on a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer to seek the surveillance order for Page from a federal judge, arguing that Trump was the real target.
In his tweets, Trump complained that the “Fake Dirty Dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele was paid for by Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, saying it “was responsible for starting the totally conflicted and discredited Mueller Witch Hunt!”
“A disgrace to America,” Trump wrote. “They should drop the discredited Mueller Witch Hunt now!”
The counterintelligence investigation by the FBI into Russian election interference began months before the Obama administration sought the court surveillance order on Page in October 2016. Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017, after Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director.
In his tweets, Trump also cited comments by Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, during an appearance Monday on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” Trump went on Twitter early Monday to promote Fitton’s interview shortly before it began.
During the interview, Fitton characterized the Steele dossier as “a Clinton campaign document” and said it was “a fraud and a hoax designed to target Trump,” according to Trump’s tweets. Fitton also accused the FBI and Justice Department of misconduct.
Democrats and Republicans have been sparring for months over the significance of the FBI’s surveillance of Page, whom the FBI believed was interacting with Russians.
Republicans, who previously released some details about the application, have accused the FBI of relying too much on the Steele dossier, which they painted as politically motivated and uncorroborated.
Democrats counter that the surveillance application relied on more information than what Steele provided. And they note that Steele had been a reliable source of information to the FBI in the past.
In its application to surveil Page, the FBI disclosed that his work was on behalf of a client who was possibly looking for politically damaging information about Trump. Republicans had accused the bureau of failing to notify the court of the dossier’s political origins.
Much of the more than 400 pages of applications is redacted, making it impossible to know all the evidence that the FBI presented to a judge in seeking the wiretap order.
Among the Democrats to push back on Trump’s Monday morning tweets was Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who said the president had the sequence of events wrong.
“Wrong again, Mr. President, no matter how many times you repeat it,” Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Investigation began when the FBI learned one of your other foreign policy advisors, George Papadopoulos, had been informed Russians had stolen emails and were prepared to help your campaign by releasing them.”
After a summit last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump asserted that he accepts the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia sought to sabotage the U.S. election in 2016.
But he has continued to vigorously deny that his campaign coordinated with Russia, repeatedly calling the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.”
In a tweet Sunday night, Trump said it was “all a big hoax.”
During a television appearance on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s comment was targeted at allegations of coordination.
“Obviously the president is talking about the collusion with his campaign,” she said on “Fox & Friends.” “He’s been very clear that there wasn’t any. I think he’s said it about a thousand times.”
In his tweets on Monday, Trump also lashed out again at the media for coverage of his summit with Putin in Helsinki.
Much of the coverage in the week since the summit has focused on Trump’s refusal to confront Putin more aggressively about election interference and how little has been disclosed about what the two leaders discussed during a closed-door meeting that lasted more than two hours.
“When you hear the Fake News talking negatively about my meeting with President Putin, and all that I gave up, remember, I gave up NOTHING, we merely talked about future benefits for both countries,” Trump tweeted. “Also, we got along very well, which is a good thing, except for the Corrupt Media!”
Shane Harris contributed to this report.