Washington: US President Donald Trump said he “allowed” White House counsel Donald McGahn and other personnel to fully cooperate with Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and that McGahn isn’t a “RAT.”
The president tweeted on Saturday, hours after a lengthy New York Times story that attorney has had at least three voluntary interviews with investigators on the special counsel’s team, totalling some 30 hours, over the past nine months.
“I allowed White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House staff to fully cooperate with the Special Councel,” Trump said, misspelling “counsel” in the second instance before reissuing the tweet. “We readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history.”
The New York Times story said McGahn described to investigators Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of FBI Director James Comey and other topics potentially under review by Mueller. The newspaper also suggested McGahn feared that Trump was setting him up to take any blame for any possible wrongdoing, citing unnamed people close to him.
Trump was back on Twitter early Sunday, with multiple tweets about the story — again misspelling “counsel” — saying the story falsely implied that McGahn “had TURNED” on him.
The president also restated his opinion that Mueller’s probe is a “witch hunt,” invoking the spectre of the anti-communist crusade in the 1950s by former Senator Joseph McCarthy by calling it “McCarthyism at its WORST!” The president is spending the weekend at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course.
In another tweet on Sunday, he decried a “disgusting new Board Member” at the New York Times, an apparent reference to Sarah Jeong, the technology writer recently hired by the newspaper who was criticised on right-wing websites for tweets written between 2013 and 2015.
Earlier on Saturday, he lashed out at John Brennan in the latest effort to counter criticism of his decision to revoke the former US spy-in-chief’s security clearance, as well as reports that other officials and former officials, including some involved in Mueller’s probe, may be next in line to lose their clearances.
Trump tweeted that Brennan “will go down as easily the WORST” CIA director in history and called him “a loudmouth, partisan, political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!”
The president also suggested that unspecified “mistakes” Brennan made while serving as CIA director should be “looked at.”
The counter-punch comes after days of criticism from former US national security officials and military leaders who’ve cast Trump’s cancellation of Brennan’s clearance — an apparent retaliation for his criticism of the president — as a dangerous precedent.
A joint letter published this week from more than a dozen former senior intelligence officials — who served both Republican and Democratic administrations — said Trump’s decision “has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”
Bin Laden raid
That letter followed a scathing op-ed published in the Washington Post from the retired admiral who oversaw the capture of Osama Bin Laden. The retired special operations commander, William H. McRaven, called Brennan “one of the finest public servants I have ever known” and challenged Trump to revoke his security clearance also.
Before being appointed CIA director by President Barack Obama, Brennan, 62, spent 25 years at the agency, including a stint as the station chief in Saudi Arabia, and also served as the director of the National Counterterrorism Centre.
McRaven said Brennan’s “honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.” He also invoked “McCarthy-era tactics,” in reference to what he called Trump’s efforts to “suppress the voices of criticism”
‘Drunk with power’
In his first live TV interview since being stripped of his security clearance, Brennan said on MSNBC late Friday that Trump’s is “drunk with power,” and rapped Republican lawmakers in Congress for turning a blind eye to the president’s actions.
“Are the Republicans on the Hill who have given him a pass going to wait for a disaster to happen before they actually find their backbones?” Brennan said.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the White House, at Trump’s behest, has drafted documents to revoke the security clearances of several others who’ve criticised him or been part of Mueller’s probe.
Brennan is also scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.