U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his attacks Wednesday on the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, saying they are “the single greatest Witch Hunt in American history.”
In Twitter comments, Trump reiterated his contention that there “was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, saying “everybody,” including opposition Democrats, “knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing.”
He said Republican lawmakers “should finally take control” of the probes, which include several in Congress and a months-long criminal investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country’s top law enforcement agency. None of the investigations has been completed or reached conclusions.
Trump also assailed California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, calling her “sneaky” because on Tuesday, she released a transcript of an August interview with the head of a firm that produced a dossier containing allegations about Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. Feinstein is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which received the documents from Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of research group Fusion GPS. Simpson said he gave the dossier about Trump to the FBI because he was “very concerned” about a potential national security matter.
“The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace,” Trump said. He called for a “tough primary” election against her, although she is a Democrat and the Republican Trump holds no sway over Democratic political affairs.
Feinstein unilaterally released a lengthy transcript of Simpson’s testimony without telling the majority Republican bloc on the Judiciary Committee.
Simpson’s firm hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy, to produce the dossier, and that research was paid for by Democrats, including the campaign of Trump’s election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A conservative website had earlier sought information about Trump but stopped its investigation of the then-Republican candidate once it became apparent that he would be his party’s nominee. Later, a lawyer for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s past.
“From my perspective there was a law enforcement issue about whether there was an illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws,” Simpson said.
Trump has dismissed the dossier and repeatedly denied that his campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has contended that the investigations are an excuse by Democrats to explain his upset win over Clinton, a former secretary of state.
Simpson said Steele also told him the FBI believed information in the dossier “might be credible” because they had a source inside the Trump organization who “indicated the same thing.”
“It was someone like us who decided to pick up the phone and report something,” Simpson said.
Setting the record straight
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Simpson requested the transcript of his testimony be released to the public and that the American people deserved the chance to see his words and judge for themselves.
“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public,” Feinstein said in a statement.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, objected to Feinstein’s release of the testimony. A Grassley spokesman, Taylor Foy, called Feinstein’s actions “confounding” and said she had undermined the committee’s “ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollections of future witnesses.”
The committee is conducting one of several investigations into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election and possible connections with the Trump campaign.
U.S. intelligence agencies assessed last year that Russia had conducted a campaign targeting the election with the goal of hurting Clinton’s chances of winning while boosting Trump. In addition, Mueller is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI chief James Comey when Comey was heading the agency’s Russia probe before Mueller was appointed to take over the investigation.
‘Unquestionably real news’
The website BuzzFeed published the entire dossier last year amid criticism that it contained unverified information. Ben Smith, the site’s editor in chief, wrote Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed that he stands behind that decision and that his organization believed it was in the public interest to release information that BuzzFeed and other outlets were citing in stories.
“A year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news. That’s a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish,” Smith said.
One item in the dossier is a claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials.
Cohen denies he made such a trip, and on Tuesday sued BuzzFeed in a New York state court, saying the website defamed him and harmed him financially. In a separate defamation lawsuit in federal court, Cohen sued Fusion GPS.