PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump suggested Wednesday that he is in no hurry to fire either special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or Mueller’s boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, and asserted again that the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election is part of “a hoax.”
“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” Trump said. “So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us.”
Trump also said he would impose additional sanctions on Russia when needed, and he bristled at the notion that he had backed away from a new round of penalties associated with alleged Russian help for Syrian chemical weapons production.
Trump spoke at a news conference alongside visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two men had already shaken hands to close the session when Trump returned to the microphone to answer a question about whether he had canceled or delayed a new round of sanctions.
“We’ll do the sanctions when they very much deserve it,” Trump said.
“There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.”
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had announced the penalties Sunday, saying they would be rolled out the following day. No sanctions came, and the White House later said Haley’s remark was in error. The awkward episode continued Tuesday, with a White House official saying Haley may have been confused, and the blunt U.S. diplomat disputing that characterization.
Trump complained that his actions to counter Russian aggression in Europe and the Mideast have been ignored, and for “the media” nothing he says or does about Russia will be considered strong enough.
Trump’s frustration at the months-long probe led by Mueller was evident. He was asked whether he had concluded that the political fallout from firing Mueller would be too great. Trump has mused about taking that step, but many Republicans have urged him not to.
Before Trump answered the specific question, he spouted a stream of familiar complaints.
Trump repeatedly asserted there was “no collusion” between his presidential campaign and Russia and said “no one has been more transparent” than he in cooperating with the federal investigation.
Trump said Democrats, whom he called “the obstructionists,” had fabricated claims about the election to salve their loss and suggested that the FBI had deliberately avoided seizing a Democratic National Committee computer server. He wondered aloud whether money associated with the Democratic campaign “went to Russia.”
Trump did not address questions about what had happened with Haley, who has been among the toughest administration voices advocating tough U.S. measures to stand up to Russian behavior she calls menacing and craven.