Trump Tells Sessions to ‘Stop This Rigged Witch Hunt Right Now.’

WASHINGTON — President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday to end the special counsel investigation, an extraordinary appeal to the nation's top law enforcement official to end an inquiry directly into the president.

Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!
9:24 AM - Aug 1, 2018

Mr. Trump's lawyers quickly moved to contain the fallout, saying it was not an order to a member of his cabinet, but merely an opinion. An hour and a half after the tweet was posted, Mr. Trump's lawyers contacted a reporter for The New York Times. In a subsequent telephone conversation, one of his lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, dismissed the obstruction of justice concerns, calling it a "bizarre and novel theory of obstruction by tweet," adding that it was "idiotic."

The order immediately raised questions from some lawyers about whether it was an attempt to obstruct justice. The special counsel, appointed last year to oversee the government's Russia investigation, is already looking into some of the president's previous Twitter posts and public statements to determine whether they were intended to obstruct the inquiry into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign.The president's lawyers, Jay A. Sekulow and Mr. Giuliani, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Trump was not ordering the inquiry closed but simply expressing his opinion.

Presidents typically do not weigh in on active Justice Department investigations, but Mr. Trump has been outspoken about his anger and frustration with the Russia inquiry. Mr. Trump has also said that he never would have made Mr. Sessions his attorney general if he had known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from the inquiry.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Mr. Sessions recused himself in early 2017 in part to avoid the kind of conflicts Mr. Trump proposed. Later, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed to carry out the inquiry.

"It's not a call to action," Mr. Giuliani said, adding that it was a sentiment that Mr. Trump and his lawyers had previously expressed publicly and that it was a statement protected by the president's constitutional right to free speech.

"He doesn't feel that he has to intervene in the process, nor is he intervening," Mr. Sekulow said.

The president wanted the legal process to play out, his lawyers said. "He's expressing his opinion, but he's not talking of his special powers he has" as president, Mr. Giuliani said.

"Looking back on history, who was treated worse," Mr. Trump asked.

Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrumpLooking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and "Public Enemy Number One," or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement - although convicted of nothing? Where is the Russian Collusion?
11:35 AM - Aug 1, 2018

It was an eyebrow-raising comparison: Mr. Capone was widely rumored to have ordered the deaths of many people and intimidating witnesses, but he was ultimately convicted of tax crimes in 1931.

Urging Mr. Sessions to end the inquiry was unprecedented and amounted to Mr. Trump asking Mr. Sessions to "subvert the law," said Matthew S. Axelrod, a longtime prosecutor who served in top roles in the Obama Justice Department.

"What he's saying here is that there's no one who ought to be able to investigate his actions and, if necessary, hold him accountable for those actions," Mr. Axelrod said.

Mr. Axelrod said this request of Mr. Sessions was part of a larger pattern — one in which Mr. Trump attacked the integrity of the special counsel, attacked the press and attacked the courts, "all institutions designed to provide checks on executive authority and executive overreach," he said.

Mr. Trump gave the directive in a series of Twitter posts hitting familiar notes in his objections to the investigation and accusing an investigator of being "out to STOP THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP." Some of his messages contained quotations the president attributed to a staunch supporter, the lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

Mr. Mueller and his team are also looking into whether some of Mr. Trump's tweets about Mr. Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey were intended to obstruct the inquiry.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, suggested on Wednesday on Twitter that the president's latest directive to Mr. Sessions was just that.

Sen. Patrick Leahy✔@SenatorLeahyWhen I was a prosecutor, obstruction of justice was often hard to prove, requiring difficult-to-obtain evidence that the individual's actions were truly intended to interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. Oh how times have changed.

View image on Twitter
10:20 AM - Aug 1, 2018

The president's lawyers made arguments to the special counsel's office this year about why the president had done nothing wrong through his tweets and public statements.

"I don't want to disclose our correspondence, but we maintain the theory of obstruction is bizarre and not supported," Mr. Sekulow said.

On Capitol Hill, senators were busy trying to complete a batch of spending bills ahead of a weeklong recess, and the president's appeal to Mr. Sessions was treated as an unwelcome intrusion. Democrats denounced it as a dangerous escalation that could become part of an obstruction of justice case. Republicans wagged their fingers, but conceded that the president's tweets, in the end, probably should not be given too much weight.

"I continue to think that tweets of that nature are inappropriate and do not serve the president well," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. "He should stay out of what is an active investigation and refrain from commenting on it."

New York Times, August 1, 2018


August 1, 2018

Post Script. Helsinki#2. High crimes and misdemeanors in plain sight. Share the #TraitorTrump"s latest attempt to obstruct justice!

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