Donald Trump again attacked Robert Mueller, a day after the special counsel said that he couldn't exonerate the president of obstruction of justice, declaring that there are no grounds for Congress to remove him from office.
"There was no high crime and no misdemeanor. How do you impeach on that?" Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a commencement speech at the Air Force Academy. He called impeachment a "dirty, filthy, disgusting word."
Mueller "never should have been chosen" to lead the government's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump said. "I think he's totally conflicted, because as you know he wanted to be the FBI director and I said, 'no."' Trump, who described Mueller as a "Never-Trumper," also again claimed that he and Mueller previously had an unspecified business dispute.
Both claims are unsubstantiated. People close to Mueller say he didn't seriously pursue the FBI job. And Trump's own aides have said the two men never had a business relationship.
While Mueller's report documented extensive Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said, "Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side."
Trump's comments came after Mueller broke almost two years of silence on his investigation, putting the onus on Congress to act by emphasizing that a Justice Department rule says a sitting president can't be indicted.
"Highly conflicted Robert Mueller would have brought charges, if he had ANYTHING, but there were no charges to bring!" Trump said in a Thursday morning tweet.
Trump's remarks directly conflict with Mueller's. In his first public comments Wednesday since his appointment two years ago and the release of his 448-page report last month, Mueller said he couldn't exonerate Trump of having committed obstruction.
"If we had had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so," Mueller said.
Without explicitly mentioning the congressional power of impeachment, Mueller said, "The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing."
Mueller's report showed Russia sought to intervene in Trump's favor during the election and that his campaign was "receptive" to that assistance, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
What the president has attempted to characterize as "no collusion, no obstruction" should be recast as "no witch hunt, no exoneration," McCabe said.
Trump said in a tweet Thursday that "Mueller didn't find Obstruction either," contending he was just fighting back against a "phony crime."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic presidential contenders are facing renewed pressure from their liberal flank to pursue impeachment.
But any formal proceeding is likely months away — if it happens at all.
Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said impeachment remains an option, though both have called focused instead on the need for Congressional investigations of Trump to continue.
This article was written by Margaret Talev and Terrence Dopp, reporters for Bloomberg.