- President Donald Trump suggested on Friday night that the Russia investigation being conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller is illegitimate.
- Trump made that assertion in a tweet, while drawing a handful of conclusions: that former FBI director James Comey illegally leaked classified information, and that the leak resulted in Mueller’s appointment to oversee the Russia investigation, making Mueller’s appointment the product of an “illegal act,” as Trump put it.
- He then asked: “Does everybody know what that means?”
President Donald Trump suggested on Friday night that the Russia investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller is illegitimate.
That’s the conclusion Trump floated in a tweet, in which he drew a handful conclusions about the series of events he believes led to Mueller’s appointment:
- That former FBI director James Comey illegally leaked classified information.
- That Mueller was appointed as a result of that illegal leak.
- And that the occurrences, taken together, mean that Mueller’s investigation is the product of an “illegal act.”
Trump then asked, “Does everybody know what that means,” seemingly hinting that the Russia probe itself is illegitimate.
- George Frey/Getty Images
Jumping to the wrong conclusion
The leak that Trump is referring to – the one that helped lead to Mueller’s appointment – was a memo Comey wrote, documenting a February 14, 2017 meeting he had with Trump, during which Trump asked Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn, his national security adviser who had just left the administration.
After Trump fired Comey in May 2017, the president threatened him on Twitter, saying “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”
Comey then asked a colleague to tell The New York Times about the memo documenting his February 14 meeting with Trump, out of concern that the president may have tried to obstruct justice by asking the FBI to drop its investigation into Flynn.
The Times ran a story about that memo on May 16. The next day, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.
Comey told congressional lawmakers a month later that the memo he passed to his colleague contained no classified information. Here’s how he explained it:
“If I write it in such a way that doesn’t include anything of a classification, that would make it easier for us to discuss within the FBI, and the government, and to hold onto it in a way that makes it accessible to us.”
Since Mueller was appointed, Trump has criticized the federal investigators, who are tasked with deconstructing Russia’s wide-ranging interference campaign in the 2016 US election. The probe has evolved dramatically over the last year, resulting in a number of federal charges against some of Trump’s closest aides and some Russian operatives.
Trump frequently calls Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” and believes it is motivated not by a desire to make sense of Russia’s meddling in the US electoral process, but rather a partisan plot to undermine his presidency.