WASHINGTON, U.S. - In accusing the Deputy Attorney General of leading what the President calls a ‘witch hunt’ - Donald Trump inevitably acknowledged for the very first time publicly, that he is under investigation.
In his latest rebuke of his own Justice Department, Trump escalated his attacks on Friday in an early morning Twitter rant, when he condemned the department’s actions as “phony” and “sad!”
Challenging the integrity of the official overseeing the expanding inquiry into Russian influence of the 2016 election, Trump appeared to accuse the deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein, of leading the “witch hunt.”
Last month, Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to conduct the investigation after Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey.
Trump, referring to the memo Rosenstein wrote in May, that was critical of Comey’s leadership at the FBI, said on Twitter on Friday, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!”
He added, “Witch hunt.”
As the Russia investigation proceeds, the remarkable public rebuke by Trump is the latest example of a concerted effort by him, the White House and its allies to undermine officials at the Justice Department and the FBI.
While several positions at the nation’s top law enforcement agency still remain vacant, including the FBI director’s post - Trump has also made it known that he has considered firing Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel to lead the Russia investigation by Rosenstein.
His personal lawyer earlier bragged about firing Preet Bharara, the former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was let go as part of the mass dismissal of top prosecutors.
Trump’s ally, Newt Gingrich meanwhile accused Mueller of being the tip of the “deep-state spear aimed at destroying” the Trump presidency.
Trump is also said to be enraged at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been Trump’s longtime political ally, who recused himself from the Russia case in March.
Trump’s aides are now saying that he is frustrated and growing impatient with the developments in the probe
Aides have even described how Trump is often seen yelling at television sets showcasing coverage of the probe at the White House.
Trump continues to insist that he is the target of a conspiracy to discredit and possibly end his presidency.
Rosenstein meanwhile privately acknowledged that he may need to recuse himself from the investigation.
Trump’s attack on Rosenstein came after the deputy attorney general complained about news reports based on leaks, late on Thursday.
He wrote, “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated.”
Rosenstein’s statement meanwhile came after The Washington Post published two articles citing unnamed officials.
The first one said that Mueller’s investigation had widened to include whether Trump committed Obstruction of Justice, while the second one said the investigation was examining financial transactions involving Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law.
However, following Rosenstein’s statement, questions were raised about whether Trump or some other White House official asked Rosenstein to publicly discredit the reports.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she was “growing increasingly concerned” that Trump might attempt to fire both Mueller and Rosenstein.
She said in a statement, “If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening. Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law.”