President Trump complained Monday about the upcoming congressional testimony of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, saying he “should not be given another bite at the apple” and asserting that it “will be bad for him and the phony Democrats.”
Mueller is scheduled to appear publicly before two Democratic-led House panels on Wednesday to deliver highly anticipated testimony about his report on Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump sought to obstruct his investigation.
In a pair of tweets, Trump lashed out at Mueller and former FBI officials, repeating multiple false claims and offering a misleading characterization of the findings in Mueller’s 448-page report, which was released with redactions in April.
Trump later told reporters at the White House that he doesn’t plan to watch more than a little of the hearings, calling them a “waste of time.”
“Highly conflicted Robert Mueller should not be given another bite at the apple,” Trump wrote in one of this tweets. “In the end it will be bad for him and the phony Democrats in Congress who have done nothing but waste time on this ridiculous Witch Hunt. Result of the Mueller Report, NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION!”
Mueller’s report concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election “in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
The interference included a social media campaign that favored Trump and disparaged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as the hacking of computers maintained by allies of Clinton and the subsequent releases of stolen documents, the report said.
The report did not find sufficient evidence to bring charges of criminal conspiracy with Russia against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign. It did not offer a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Attorney General William P. Barr later concluded that there was not sufficient evidence for obstruction of justice, but House Democrats are continuing to pursue that issue, with many pointing to episodes detailed in Mueller’s report as grounds for impeachment.
Trump has previously attacked Mueller as “highly conflicted,” making several claims that have been disputed by people familiar with interactions between the two.
Trump, for example, has repeatedly alleged that he and Mueller had a business dispute that led to bad blood after the former FBI director resigned his membership at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. But the special counsel’s report describes a far less contentious parting of ways than the president has described.
In October 2011, Mueller informed Trump’s club that he and his family were canceling their membership because they lived in Washington and were “unable to make full use of the Club.” He then asked if they would be “entitled” to a refund of a portion of their initial membership fee, which was paid in 1994. The club responded that the Mueller family would be put on a list for a potential refund.
“The Muellers have not had further contact with the club,” according to the report.
Speaking to reporters, Trump cited two other alleged conflicts, including an assertion that Meuller is the “best friend” of former FBI director James B. Comey, whom Trump fired in 2017.
Associates of the two men have said they had a close professional relationship but did not socialize.
Trump also described Mueller as having wanted to return to his former job of FBI director but said he decided not to give him the position.
The two men had a roughly 30-minute meeting at the White House in May 2017. Former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon told investigators that the purpose of the meeting was not a job interview but to have Mueller “offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI,” according to the special counsel’s report.
In his tweets Monday, Trump also suggested that Republicans should use Wednesday’s hearings before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees to ask Mueller about FBI actions during the investigation.
Trump said lawmakers should ask “why were the text messages of Peter S and his lover, Lisa Page, deleted and destroyed right after they left Mueller, and after we requested them(this is Illegal)?”
Trump was referring to FBI agent Peter Strzok, who played a major role in the early stages of the investigation into Russian interference, and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The two had an affair and exchanged texts disparaging Trump.
A report made public in December said that the Justice Department’s inspector general could not recover texts from the phones assigned to Strzok and Page for their work with Mueller because by the time investigators requested the devices, they had been reset in preparation for others to use them.
The report detailed glitches that complicated the inspector general’s ability to recover and review messages exchanged during a five-month period ending the day Mueller was appointed.
But the inspector general wrote that there was “no evidence” that Strzok and Page “attempted to circumvent” the FBI’s data-retention policies and that the “content of the text messages did not appear to be a factor” in whether and how they were retained.
The report also makes no mention of Mueller playing any role in the deletion of texts.
Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team in July 2017 and ultimately fired from the FBI after the communications were discovered. Page separately left the team and later the bureau.
Trump said in May that said he would leave it to Barr to decide whether Mueller should testify. Barr initially said he had no objections to Mueller personally testifying, but earlier this month, he said he had changed his view.
“After I said that, [Mueller] indicated that he was not interested in testifying, and he held a press conference and issued a press statement making it clear that his testimony really was the report itself and that it wasn’t going to go beyond the report,” Barr told reporters.
He was “disappointed” Democrats had issued subpoenas to compel Mueller’s testimony.
“It seems to me the only reason for doing that is to create some kind of public spectacle,” he added.
Colby Itkowitz and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.