President Trump slammed Robert Mueller's team before a massive audience in Texas on Friday, hours after a federal judge rebuked the special counsel's office at a hearing for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“It’s what I’ve been saying for a long time, it’s a witch hunt,” Trump told the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas, Texas.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Mueller's team earlier Friday that they “don’t really care” about Manafort -- who is seeking the dismissal of an 18-count indictment on tax and bank fraud-related charges -- and accused them of being more interested in information leading to a possible impeachment of Trump.
The judge also demanded to see an unredacted version of the “scope memo,” a document outlining the scope of the Russia probe.
Trump, in his speech to the NRA, read from news reports on Ellis’ remarks approvingly, particularly quotes from the judge that asked what the charges had to do with the campaign -- considering they indicted Manafort on alleged crimes dating back as far back as 2005.
"It's really a disgrace," Trump said, while calling the judge "really something very special."
Trump also offered his support for Manafort, noting that he had worked for President Ronald Reagan: “I truly believe he’s a good person.”
Mueller’s team says its authorities are laid out in documents including the August 2017 scope memo – and that some powers are secret because they involve ongoing investigations and national security matters that cannot be publicly disclosed.
But Ellis scoffed, summing up the argument of the Special Counsel’s Office as, "We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying."
Trump, despite having continually criticized the probe as a “witch hunt,” suggested to the crowd in Dallas that he loved fighting battles, including with Mueller’s team.
“We’re all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles,” he said.
Trump told reporters earlier in the day that he “would love” to speak with Mueller—even against the legal advice of his attorneys.
“The problem we have is we have 13 people and they’re all Democrats—real Democrats—angry Democrats. And that’s not a fair situation,” Trump said of the investigators on the special counsel's team.
The president stressed that the investigators "say that I am not a target."
"You have a group of investigators that are so Democratic ... they went to Hillary Clinton's celebration which turned out to be a funeral," Trump said. "I would love to speak, nobody wants to speak [with Mueller] more than I do."
In the speech at the NRA convention, he praised the group, which has been criticized by gun control groups in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February. He promised that his administration would defend Second Amendment rights, while touting efforts the administration has taken to encourage school safety.
“I want to thank all of you, the true American patriots of the NRA who defend our rights, our liberty, and our great American flag," he said.
In his wide-ranging remarks, the president also hailed the results of the tax cuts he signed into law last year, praising the strength of the economy and job numbers announced Friday that show the unemployment rate is at 3.9 percent.
And he warned attendees about being complacent in the November midterms, noting that history suggests that midterms are bad for first-term presidents.
“We cannot get complacent, we have to win the midterms,” he said.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.