Trump suggests watchdog report shows Mueller probe was ‘illegal’
President Trump on Tuesday suggested without evidence that last week’s Justice Department inspector general (IG) report criticizing former FBI Director James Comey over his handling of official memos proved that the special counsel’s Russia investigation was “illegal.”
Trump also falsely claimed that Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference showed there was “no obstruction,” despite the special counsel not reaching a conclusion either way on whether the president obstructed the investigation.
“Based on the IG Report, the whole Witch Hunt against me and my administration was a giant and illegal SCAM,” Trump tweeted, using his common moniker for the Mueller investigation.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report on Thursday saying that Comey violated FBI policies and his employment agreement by mishandling memos detailing his conversations with Trump.
Comey gave one of the memos, which contained information about the ongoing investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, to a friend with instructions for him to leak it to a journalist. Comey has defended his decision, saying he did it in part to trigger the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.
The inspector general issued a scathing rebuke of Comey’s handling of sensitive investigative information.
“By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information,” the inspector general wrote.
Horowitz did not, however, recommend whether Comey should face charges, and Attorney General William Barr decided against prosecuting him for any criminal wrongdoing.
The report by the inspector general, who is currently investigating other aspects of the Russia probe, did not include any criticisms of the Mueller investigation itself.
After Comey leaked the memo about the February Flynn conversation, the Justice Department appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the election.
Mueller concluded the investigation in March without finding evidence to charge associates of the campaign in a broader conspiracy with Russia. Mueller also did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed the probe, but Barr has since determined the evidence to be insufficient to accuse the president of criminal wrongdoing.
House Democrats have sought to pick up threads from Mueller for further investigation, including the House Judiciary Committee, which launched a sprawling investigation into alleged obstruction and abuses of power by Trump earlier this year. The White House has accused Democrats of attempting a “do-over” of the special counsel’s probe.