President Donald Trump yesterday acknowledged for the first time that Moscow helped him win the White House in 2016 -- before retracting himself to launch a fiery attack on Robert Mueller and the Russia probe.
“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax,” Trump tweeted, in an outburst against Special Counsel Mueller’s suggestion that Congress impeach him for obstructing the two-year investigation.
“And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected,” Trump said.
Shortly afterward he sought to walk back the admission.
“Russia did not get me elected. You know who got me elected? I got me elected,” he told reporters.
Trump has stridently rejected any suggestion his victory was illegitimate ever since US intelligence chiefs announced in January 2017 that Moscow interfered heavily in the election, hacking computers and manipulating social media largely to damage Hilary Clinton and boost Trump’s campaign.
His outburst came a day after Mueller -- in his first public comments on the investigation he was named to lead in May 2017 -- said it had established there “were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. …. designed and timed... to damage a presidential candidate.”
Mueller also reiterated that the investigation found evidence of attempts to obstruct his investigation by Trump. “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” he said.
But he said he was blocked from charging the president by Justice Department regulations and indicated that it is up to Congress to launch impeachment proceedings to determine if Trump committed a crime.
Trump in response slammed Mueller as conflicted and said the investigation had produced no evidence against him.
Asked about a growing clamor in Democratic ranks for the launch of impeachment proceedings against him, Trump called it “presidential harassment.” He also called impeachment a dirty ‘word’.