President Trump, in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, said former Special Counsel Robert Mueller made “such a fool” out of himself last week when he delivered his first and only public statement about the Russia investigation.
Speaking to Fox News amid his visit to Normandy, France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Trump alluded to some of the confusion generated by Mueller's remarks.
“Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself ... because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong,” Trump told Ingraham.
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Trump was referring to Mueller’s initial suggestion that he was not charged with an obstruction of justice offense because of longstanding Justice Department policy.
“Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider,” Mueller said last week, citing an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that states a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that. ... We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller said.
Mueller’s statements sparked controversy in the media and among congressional Democrats, who claimed they contradicted Attorney General Bill Barr’s original statements on Mueller’s obstruction of justice inquiry.
Barr, in testimony before the Senate, had said Mueller repeatedly told his team "that he emphatically was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found obstruction." Barr, upon receipt of the Russia report in late March, also had released a four-page summary saying Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president committed an obstruction of justice offense -- though Barr determined the evidence did not support such a charge.
The confusion resulted in a rare joint statement the night of Mueller's public appearance. In an attempt to clarify and put both offices on the same page, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec and spokesman for the special counsel Peter Carr put out a statement saying:
“The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice ...
“The Special Counsel’s report and his statement today made clear that the office concluded it would not reach a determination—one way or the other—about whether the President committed a crime,” they continued. “There is no conflict between these statements.”
Trump went on to blast House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even giving her a new nickname, when asked whether he minds if Mueller testifies to Congress.
“Nancy Pelosi, I call her Nervous Nancy, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t talk about it,” Trump said, referring to the joint statement. “Nancy Pelosi is a disaster, ok? She’s a disaster. Let her do what she wants, you know what? I think they’re in big trouble.”
Since Mueller’s public appearance, congressional Democrats have ramped up calls for impeachment of the president, citing alleged obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. Pelosi, though, has seemed cool to the idea, even as rank-and-file members of her party continue to push for impeachment proceedings to begin.
Trump last week called impeachment a “dirty, filthy and disgusting word,” and said there was no reason for Democrats to begin the process.
Even without impeachment, though, congressional Democrats are leading several high-profile, Trump-focused investigations in an effort to obtain the president’s financial documents, as well as testimony from current and former administration officials.
Meanwhile, Trump also weighed in on ongoing negotiations with Mexico concerning his threat to impose tariffs if they cannot crack down on illegal immigration across southern border.
“When you’re the piggy bank that everybody steals from and robs from, they deceive you like they’ve been doing from 25 years, tariffs are a beautiful thing, it’s a beautiful word if you know how to use them properly,” Trump told Fox News.
Last week, in an effort to force Mexico to do more to “stop the invasion” of migrants into the U.S., the president vowed to impose a new 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports. The tariffs, set to go into effect on June 10 absent an agreement, would increase over time, reaching 25 percent by Oct. 1.
In the interview, he pushed back on Republicans who have voiced concern on the tariff threat, and said, “Republicans should love what I’m doing.”
The number of migrants apprehended at America's southern border skyrocketed last month to levels not seen in over a decade, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection reporting nearly 133,000 arrests in May.
"We are in full-blown emergency," a CBP official said Wednesday.
The number of apprehensions was the highest monthly total in more than 13 years. In April, authorities recorded 99,304 arrests.
Trump also spoke to Ingraham about the significance of the ceremonies in Normandy this week.
"There was never a more important event than the event 75 years ago today, think of that? These were incredible, brave people who were just being blown up and you have the graves ... These were people who knew they were going to die. It was, it was, horrendous," he said. "... This was a very, very horrific day, but it was also a very special day and it's an honor to be here."