June 15, 2017 12:43 GMT by nytimes.com

Trump Mocks Investigators Over ‘Phony Collusion’ Story

Trump Mocks Investigators Over ‘Phony Collusion’ Story

The president was dismissive about new reports that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is looking into whether he tried to obstruct justice.

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday mocked federal investigators for making up a “phony collusion with the Russians story” amid new reports that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is looking into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice in the case.

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Mr. Trump tweeted just before 7 a.m.

In a second tweet a few minutes later, the president once again called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” and called the people leading it “very bad,” apparently a reference to Mr. Mueller and others at the F.B.I.

Mr. Mueller has requested interviews with three current or former senior intelligence officials, according to a person briefed on the investigation. The move suggests he is examining whether the president sought their help in trying to get James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, to end an investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.

The special counsel is also seeking documents from the National Security Agency relating to the intelligence agency’s interactions with the White House on the Russia investigation.

Together, the requests from Mr. Mueller suggest new scrutiny on whether the president tried to influence the Russia investigation through conversations he had with Mr. Comey, whom he ultimately fired, or with other officials.

That would make Mr. Trump a subject of a sprawling inquiry that he has repeatedly said has no merit. During a Rose Garden news conference last Friday, the president insisted that Mr. Comey was “a leaker” of information and said that Mr. Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill helped clear the president of wrongdoing.

“Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Comey’s testimony.

The president’s tweet Thursday morning suggests he remains dismissive of the investigation. Mr. Trump reportedly considered firing Mr. Mueller as special counsel, but was talked out of it by aides who worried about the consequences of taking such an action.

Christopher Ruddy, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, had said publicly that Mr. Trump was considering terminating Mr. Mueller. Mr. Ruddy said the president believed that Mr. Mueller had conflicts of interest that should have made him ineligible to lead the investigation.

Mr. Ruddy said, in a PBS interview, that Mr. Mueller’s previous law firm represents some members of Mr. Trump’s family. And he revealed that Mr. Trump had interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey as F.B.I. director the day before Mr. Mueller was selected to serve as special counsel.

The tweet from Mr. Trump on Thursday suggests that he still believes Mr. Mueller has conflicts of interest that undermine his ability to lead the Russia probe.

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