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Trump Wants Sessions to Ignore His Recusal and End the Russia Investigation

The president can feel the walls of the Mueller investigation closing in on him

MANCHESTER, NH - MARCH 19: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech on his administration's plans to combat the opioid crisis at Manchester Community College in Manchester, NH on March 19, 2018. (Photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens as President Donald Trump delivers a speech in March 2018.

Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe/Getty

Fresh off Tuesday night’s conspiracy-charged rally in Tampa, President Trump logged onto Twitter Wednesday morning with a vengeance. Over the course of three hours of Executive Time, the president fired off seven liberally capitalized tweets admonishing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He delivered a bizarre defense of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose trial for a host of financial crimes began Tuesday, likening him to notorious gangster “Alfonse Capone.” He wondered why Hillary Clinton’s team hiring a third party to research her opponent was different from Trump’s own campaign seeking to obtain damaging information on Clinton from an adversarial nation. Most notably, however, the president placed a call for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to put an end to the Russia investigation once and for all.

As is typically the case when tweeting about the Mueller investigation, Trump did not help his own cause here. Last week, the New York Times reported that Mueller is looking into Trump’s tweets as possible evidence that the president has obstructed justice. Cited specifically are several tweets criticizing Sessions and former FBI brass James Comey and Andrew McCabe, all of whom were mentioned in Trump’s most recent tirade. The tweet calling for Sessions to end the investigation was the most blatantly problematic. Trump has said that his attorney general should never have recused himself from the investigation, and reportedly worked to reverse the recusal as Mueller’s probe intensified. Given everything that has been made public — usually by Trump himself — there is increasing evidence that Trump has obstructed justice, or is currently doing so.

The president’s legal team sprung into action, as they did last week after it was reported that Michael Cohen plans to testify to Mueller that Trump knew in advance about the infamous Trump Tower meeting. “The president has issued no order or direction to the Department of Justice on this,” Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told the Washington Post. “I think it’s very well-established the president uses tweets to express his opinion,” added Giuliani. “He very carefully used the word ‘should.'” The former New York City mayor also attempted to argue that the claims of obstruction of justice are “bizarre,” and an “attempt to infringe of his First Amendment right and ability to communicate with the American people.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders toed the same line during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not an order, it’s the president’s opinion,” she said. “It’s ridiculous that all of the corruption and dishonesty that’s gone on with the launching of the witch hunt … the president has watched this process play out, but he also wants to see it come to an end, as he’s stated many times. We look forward to that happening.”

Democrats weren’t as forgiving. “It seems even more vivid and serious evidence of criminal intent to obstruct justice — whether it is obstruction itself or not, it certainly indicated intent,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told the Post. “There is now highly credibly evidence that the president of the United States is committing obstruction of justice in real time, right before our eyes.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also wasn’t buying the semantics argument.

While Democrats and Republicans will continue to argue over what constitutes obstruction of justice, one thing that Trump’s Wednesday-morning meltdown made clear is that he is scared as hell of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. So rapidly is evidence of collusion mounting that both Trump and Giuliani have played what could be the last card in their deck of excuses: Collusion is actually not that big of a deal because it’s not technically a crime. “Conspiracy” is a crime, though — a federal one at that.

For perspective on how nervous Trump has become in recent months, CNN’s David Gelles tallied how many times the president has specifically referenced the “witch hunt” on his Twitter feed. From May 2017 to April of this year, he never mentioned it more than nine times. Then, in May, he mentioned it 20 times. In June, 26 times. In July, 18 times. If Wednesday morning is any indication, August could be record-breaking.

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