Even as he proclaims his innocence and complains that a Justice Department investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to the Russian government are a “witch hunt” and “fake news,” President Trump is working the phones to undercut the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Politico reports today that the president called Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, late in July in a failed effort to head off a Senate vote on legislation toughening sanctions against Russia based on its attempts to influence last year’s U.S. election.
Days later, the website said, Trump phoned Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and urged him to drop efforts to pass a bill that would give Congress veto power over any presidential effort to fire Mueller. Tillis has partnered with Sen. Chris Coons, D-DE, on that legislation.
"It seems he is just always focused on Russia," one senior GOP aide told Politico.
Quoting people who it said were briefed on the calls, the website described Trump as “chewing out” the senators. The calls “reflected the president's frustration that fellow Republicans would make moves that could damage him, particularly on an investigation that he detests,” the story added. Trump repeatedly has dropped hints that he might fight Mueller.
Politico said Trump also complained to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, about the Russian sanctions bill. That conversation apparently turned into a shouting match between the two men and McConnell reportedly has told associates he doubts that Trump can salvage his presidency.
The sanctions bill ultimately passed the Senate and House with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. Trump signed it – grudgingly. Bills shielding Mueller against any presidential move to dismiss him are still pending.
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