‘Not way off, but off’: Trump challenges reports he meddled in Russia inquiry

President says his conduct has been 100% proper after New York Times reports he tried to stop Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from investigation

Donald Trump attempted on Saturday to fight off renewed reports that he intervened in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, insisting:” Everything I’ve done is 100% proper .”

Trump said a New York Times tale that outlined his unsuccessful attempt to stop us attorney general Jeff Sessions from recuse himself from the Russia investigation was ” off , not way off, but off “.

The special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly aware of Trump’s actions as he looks into whether the president has stymie the investigation into Russian attempts to sway the election in his favour.

” Everything I’ve done is 100% proper, that’s how I do things- proper ,” the president said during a 20 -minute press conference at Camp David.” I guess the collusion is now dead, everyone’s find after a year of examine that there’s been absolutely no collusion .”

Following a week in which Trump bragged on Twitter about the size of his nuclear button and faced allegations in a new book that his close aides and family doubt his competency and grip on reality, the president also said the Mueller investigation was harming America’s reputation.

” There was no collusion between us and the Russians ,” he said.” Now, there has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the[ Democratic National Committee] and the Russians but unfortunately you people don’t encompass it that much.

” Everyone tells me I’m not under investigation. Perhaps Hillary is, I don’t know. We’ve been very open. When you’ve done nothing wrong, let’s opening hours and get onto over with. Honestly, it’s very bad for our country, it’s attaining our country look foolish and this is a country I don’t want looking foolish. It’s not going to look foolish as long as I’m here .”

Sessions recused himself in March, over revelations that he held two undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador during the election campaign, in which he was a prominent advocate and consultant to Trump.

Trump’s effort to keep Sessions in charge of an investigation into his campaign offers Mueller yet another avenue to explore as his prosecutors work to untangle potential evidence of blockage.

Actions under scrutiny include the firing of the former FBI director James Comey; an allegation by Comey that Trump encouraged him to end an investigation into the former national security consultant Michael Flynn; and the president’s role in drafting an incomplete and potentially misleading statement about a 2016 meeting with Russians.

The New York Times reported the coming week that Trump directed his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to tell Sessions not to recuse himself.

The report added to the portrait of a president left furious by an investigation that he again called a hoax on Saturday and suggests that he worked through an intermediary to keep the inquiry under the watch of an attorney general he expected would be loyal.

Three people familiar with the issues confirmed to the Associated Press that McGahn spoke with Sessions just before he announced his recusal, to exhort him not to do so. One of the person or persons said McGahn contacted Sessions at the president’s behest. All three spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid publicly discussing an ongoing investigation.

” What this adds that is new is that[ Trump] took action to prevent, to attempt to prevent, Sessions from recusing himself ,” the Notre Dame criminal law professor Jimmy Gurule, a former federal prosecutor, told the AP.

” So now we go simply beyond his state of mind, his personal beliefs, to taking concrete action to attempt to prevent Conferences from recusing himself .”

Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly maintained that he did nothing improper and that as chairperson he had unequivocal authority to fire Comey and take other actions.

They may also argue that the president was empowered to want the attorney general he appointed to oversee the justice department’s Russian meddling investigation or, as McGahn contended to Sessions, that there was no basis or reason at that time for the attorney general to recuse himself.

Jonathan Turley, a statute professor at George Washington University who supports Sessions’ decision to recuse himself, told the AP he saw Trump’s order to McGahn as another sign of the president’s novice and norm-breaking approach to governing, rather than evidence of any criminal wrongdoing.

” This may have been part of the learning curve ,” Turley said.” It does not necessarily mean that he was covering up a crime .”

Sessions’ recusal left the deputy us attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, in charge of the Russia investigation. Once Trump fired Comey two months later, Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to operate the investigation.

Four people, including Flynn and Manafort, have been charged so far.

The Sessions recusal has been a sore spot for Trump, with the president publicly mocking the decision and lamenting his selection of the former Alabama senator as his attorney general.

In a July interview with the New York Times, Trump said:” Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else .”

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