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In A Flurry Of Furious Tweets, President Trump Takes Aim At Mueller Probe


We're going to start the program today with President Trump's Twitter barrage against special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. It began last night and continues today. The president is calling it a partisan witch hunt. That comes after Trump's attorney suggested the investigation should be shut down. We're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Hi, Tam. Thanks for joining us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

MARTIN: So what exactly are the president and his attorney saying?

KEITH: Well, there's been something of a hot and cold situation. So Trump, up until last night, hadn't criticized Mueller by name. Now he is. There are a couple of tweets. He says, quote, "the Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and no crime." He ends that tweet in an all-caps witch hunt exclamation point, and then he also criticizes what he sees as the partisan makeup of Robert Mueller's team, saying they're a bunch of Democrats even though Mueller himself is in fact a Republican.

Now Trump's lawyer yesterday, John Dowd, said that the investigation, basically, should be shut down at this point on its own merits. But then he sort of walked it back and was like, oh, I'm just speaking for myself. And that was a change in the posture for months of both Trump's outside lawyers and his lawyer in the White House - was that they are fully cooperating - and now they seem to be moving in a different direction, moving in the direction of trying to shut it down.

So I asked Dowd about a report that The New York Times has that Mueller has recently sent questions over to Trump's legal team, and Dowd wouldn't discuss that, but then he described the relationship with the special counsel. He says, he won't discuss the constructive and productive communications with the office of the special counsel. So there's the warm again.

MARTIN: All right. So today is Sunday, and that means a lot of politicians were on the Sunday morning political talk shows, and they were asked about the president's attacks on Mueller. What were they saying?

KEITH: So Democrat Chuck Schumer says that this is the president floating trial balloons about derailing the Mueller investigation. Some Republicans who were on these shows sort of downplayed it - said there's no way the president is going to fire Robert Mueller. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - he's a Republican who has sort of made an art of speaking to the president through the television. He seemed to be sending a message to President Trump.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: When it comes to Mr. Mueller, he is following the evidence where it takes him, and I think it's very important he be allowed to do his job without interference. And there are many Republicans who share my view.

MARTIN: Tam, let me dig in on one of the president's recent claims that there was no collusion with the Russians in the 2016 campaign and that the House Intelligence Committee investigation has vindicated him. A couple of House Intelligence Committee Republicans were on the political talk shows today. Did they agree with the president that he has been vindicated?

KEITH: Not exactly. So what happened is that Trey Gowdy was on Fox News Sunday, and he said that the evidence they had showed no collusion, but then he went on to say, with questioning from Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, that there had been some key players that the committee didn't interview or couldn't interview, including Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. Three of those people are now cooperating with Mueller's investigation.


TREY GOWDY: I don't know what Mueller has found. And I've been really clear. Leave him alone. Let him do his job. I can tell you within the universe of folks that we've interviewed, there is no evidence of collusion. That's the best I can do. I can't tell you what people I haven't talked to would say.

KEITH: So that's not exactly saying there was no collusion. It's just saying we didn't find it.

MARTIN: Where does this go from here? What are some of the things that you'll be watching for?

KEITH: What I'm watching for is whether Republican congressional leaders step up in defense of Mueller's investigation, whether it gets beyond sort of the usual suspects like Lindsey Graham to leaders. Another thing is what President Trump does. Was this weekend tweet storm something that was just a weekend thing and then it goes away and he doesn't talk about it anymore or does this become a recurring theme of him attacking the special counsel?

And then the other thing is, what does Robert Mueller do? He doesn't lay out many clues. He doesn't - his investigation doesn't leak, but there was a time recently - last month - where he returned - he got an indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities. So does he do something - get an indictment that sort of reinforces his investigation?

MARTIN: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Tam, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.