Trump escalates attacks on Mueller

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE on Thursday escalated his attacks on Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE one day after the special counsel essentially said it is up to Congress whether to hold the president accountable for his actions during the Russia probe.

Trump’s outburst, which came in a series of tweets and 17 minutes of remarks to reporters at the White House, revealed the depth of his frustration with the special counsel’s first public comments on the probe, in which Mueller said he did not clear Trump on obstruction of justice.

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“I think Mueller is a true never-Trumper,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for Colorado Springs, Colo., to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “He’s somebody that dislikes Donald Trump.”

Trump also downplayed the possibility that the Democratic-controlled House would impeach him.

“I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me it’s a dirty word, the word ‘impeach,’ ” he said. “It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word, and it had nothing to do with me.”

Mueller’s surprise public remarks on Wednesday increased pressure on the House leaders, who are facing calls from dozens of rank-and-file members to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE (D-Calif.) has thus far resisted those calls, saying the House will continue with its own investigations into Trump.

The president’s team, and Pelosi, believe that impeachment could backfire politically on Democrats and would not result in Trump’s removal because Republicans control the Senate.

Trump proclaimed shortly after Mueller concluded his public remarks on Wednesday that “the case is closed.” But on Thursday he remained fixated on the special counsel, whose comments dominated cable-news coverage, questioning Mueller’s credibility while venting anger at the possibility of being impeached.

“I’m innocent of all charges,” Trump declared to reporters, before stating that he has “presidential powers that you wouldn't believe” that shield him from an obstruction charge.

“I don’t even have to rely on Article II,” he continued, referring to the section of the Constitution that defines the president’s powers. “There was no crime. There was no obstruction. There was no collusion. There was no nothing.”

Contrary to Trump’s account, Mueller said he was blocked from considering obstruction charges because of Justice Department guidelines stating that a sitting president cannot be charged with a federal crime.

While Mueller did not specifically mention impeachment as an avenue for punishing Trump, he said “the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Trump responded by attacking Mueller’s integrity, arguing that he should never have been appointed special counsel because of a past business dispute between the two men, an apparent reference to Mueller’s decision to leave Trump’s Northern Virginia golf club years before he was named special counsel.

The president further suggested Mueller should have been taken out of consideration for the role of special counsel after he interviewed to replace James ComeyJames Brien ComeyPress: Why do we need a new press secretary? Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House MORE as FBI director and was not chosen for the job.

“Despite that, and despite $40 million, 18 Trump haters, including people who worked for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBroadway play 'Hillary and Clinton' closing early due to low ticket sales Broadway play 'Hillary and Clinton' closing early due to low ticket sales Facing challenge from Warren, Sanders touts strength against Trump MORE and some of the worst human beings on earth, they got nothing,” he continued. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Mueller’s 448-page report denies Trump’s assertion that he was “highly conflicted.” Former top White House adviser Stephen Bannon told federal investigators that Mueller did not go to the White House seeking to become FBI director for a second time, and was instead invited to offer “a perspective on the institution” to the president.

“Bannon recalled telling the president that the purported conflicts were ‘ridiculous’ and that none of them was real or could come close to justifying precluding Mueller from serving as special counsel,” the report reads.

Mueller’s report also addressed his membership at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., saying he wrote a resignation letter in October 2011 explaining “we live in the District and find that we are unable to make full use of the club” and inquiring about a partial refund for his initiation fee. The club responded he would be put on a wait list to be refunded, according to the report, which stated the Muellers had “no further contact” with the club.

Bannon told the president that the golf-club dispute was not a true conflict and claiming so was “ridiculous and petty.”

Trump also departed from his message in a stunning way when he admitted in an early morning tweet that Russia did help him “to get elected” before quickly retracting his statement.

“No, Russia did not help me get elected,” Trump told reporters about 20 minutes after publishing the tweet. “Do you know who got me elected? I got me elected.”

Mueller on Wednesday stressed that his investigation uncovered “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election,” something he said “deserves the attention of every American.” Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Russia intervened on his behalf in 2016, in spite of statements from the U.S. intelligence community.

Trump repeated his belief that the investigation was a “hoax” and defended his attacks on the probe that spanned nearly the entire two years it existed.

“It was all a hoax. And then they say, ‘gee he fought back. Isn’t that terrible he fought back?’ Of course I fight back because it was a false accusation. A totally false accusation. And it’s a disgrace,” the president said.

Mueller’s statement has given new life to talk of impeachment, as some lawmakers — including a few candidates seeking to challenge Trump in 2020 — argued the special counsel was all but inviting them to launch proceedings to remove the president from office.

Trump has generally downplayed the specter of impeachment, reasoning that a strong economy and his popularity among his base would make it a moot point.

Trump also suggested he might try to change the subject from the Russia probe in the coming days, teasing what he called his “biggest statement yet about the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump said his announcement, which he said would come Thursday or Friday, would have to do with “people crossing the border illegally” but provided no further details.