Trump Tweets He's The Subject Of A 'Witch Hunt'

Jun 16, 2017
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump is on his way to Miami, where he plans to announce changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba. But before leaving, the president of the United States fired up Twitter, responding to reports he's under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. Not for the first time, he referred to it as a witch hunt. NPR's Scott Horsley is in our studios. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so let's just remember The Washington Post reported that the president is under investigation by the special counsel for the possibility of obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. How's he responding?

HORSLEY: Angrily, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK.

HORSLEY: The tweets resumed this morning with the president saying after seven months of investigations and committee hearings about my, quote, unquote, "collusion" with the Russians, nobody's been able to show any proof. Sad.

INSKEEP: OK.

HORSLEY: And he went on to say despite the phony witch hunt going on in America, the economic and jobs numbers are great. And then finally, he tweeted, I'm being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt. Now, some news outlets have taken that last tweet as confirmation from the president himself that, in fact, he is under investigation.

But, Steve, I'm not sure I would read it that way. Based on what we know about this president's Twitter habits I think it's more likely that Trump is simply reacting to the press accounts of the investigation, not actually confirming them.

INSKEEP: I'm being - I'm just trying to unpack this. I'm being investigated, he says, for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Who would that be?

HORSLEY: He seems to be referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who drafted that memo, you'll recall, which spells out a rationale for dismissing James Comey, the former FBI director. Although that's not the rationale that Trump himself said actually explained the firing.

INSKEEP: He said, I was already planning to do it before I got the memo. And the memo, which people have seen, doesn't explicitly call for Comey's firing.

HORSLEY: And the memo was all about the way Comey dealt with the email investigation of Hillary Clinton last year. But it was Rosenstein who later appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia's election meddling and any possible ties to the Trump campaign.

Now, ironically, we had one of those only-in-Washington episodes yesterday when both Rosenstein and Trump were face to face at the Supreme Court building. They both happened to be there for the formal investiture ceremony for Neil Gorsuch, the new...

INSKEEP: New Supreme Court justice.

HORSLEY: ...Supreme Court justice nominated by President Trump. I happened to be there for that ceremony. I didn't see any interaction between Trump and Rosenstein. But last night Rosenstein issued this rather unusual statement saying Americans should be skeptical about news accounts of an investigation that are based on anonymous allegations. And he said, the Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.

INSKEEP: The Department of Justice is so determined ordinarily not to comment on ongoing investigations that even putting out a statement saying news accounts may be wrong or not sounds like a comment, actually.

HORSLEY: It's a - it was a very unusual statement from the deputy attorney general.

INSKEEP: And something that is very much in line with what the White House says, although it was more politely phrased, perhaps, than the president would do. Like, don't believe the leakers essentially is what he's suggesting.

HORSLEY: Rosenstein did not use the term fake news, but...

INSKEEP: No. No. And he didn't say don't believe them, just might not be true, approach it with caution. Any idea why Rosenstein would take that unusual step?

HORSLEY: No. I don't know what explains this statement.

INSKEEP: OK. And do you have any idea what is driving the president's messaging here, which seems very much at odds with, I don't know, a day ago or so when people were calling for bipartisan unity after a shooting?

HORSLEY: People including the president himself. We've seen a real sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde display from the White House this week. After that tragic shooting at the congressional baseball practice on Wednesday the president went on television, made a somber, I think, well-received address where he called for unity, said all the - for all of our partisan squabbles we're stronger when we act together.

He made similar comments yesterday which really fit the sort of standard presidential playbook. But in between that we've also had these very partisan, Trumpian (ph) tweets. And he makes no apologies for that. He says, the fake news hates it when I use social media, but it's turned out to be very powerful.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Really appreciate it. That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley on this day when the president is on the way to make an announcement about Cuba but is making much other news besides. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.