President Donald Trump said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller “are still here” despite talk that he would fire them, and he predicted a quick end to the investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 election.
“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months,” Trump said Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. “And they’re still here. We want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us. And we have to get back to business.”
He did not say either man’s name, and again denied that there was any collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. He called the Mueller-led investigation “a hoax” created by Democrats “to soften the blow of a loss.”
“As far as the investigation, nobody has ever been more transparent,” he said during a news conference with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I have instructed the lawyers, ‘be totally transparent.”’
He said the White House had turned over about 1.4 million pages of documents to Mueller, “if you can believe this.”
As the news conference ended, Trump defended his administration’s policy toward Russia and for the first time publicly mentioned a February incident in Syria in which American forces may have killed more than 200 Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S.-allied fighters.
“There’s been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump,” Trump said. “We had a very, very severe -- we were talking about it a little while ago -- fight in Syria recently, a month ago, between our troops and Russian troops and that’s very sad. But many people died in that fight. There has been nobody tougher than me.”
The White House has weighed citing the incident as evidence of Trump’s resolve to confront the Kremlin when necessary, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Egged on by some of his strongest supporters, Trump has taken an increasingly combative posture toward Mueller’s investigation since FBI agents raided the home and office of his lawyer Michael Cohen earlier this month. But Trump, in a Twitter post last week, denied a report that he tried to dismiss Mueller last year.
Trump met with Rosenstein on Friday in an encounter that the president’s advisers hoped would cool tensions over the investigation.
The meeting came after Trump had discussed with White House aides the idea of firing Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s Russia investigation, one person familiar with the matter said. Some congressional Republicans have been fueling Trump’s frustration, calling him repeatedly to complain about the Justice Department’s handling of their requests for classified documents.
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