President Trump said Thursday he won’t fire special counsel Robert Mueller and wants the former FBI director to “get on” with the investigation into possible collusion of Trump associates with Russia.
“No, I’m not dismissing anybody,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “I mean, I want them to get on with the task. But I also want the Senate and the House to come out with their findings.”
The president, whose allies have criticized Mr. Mueller’s investigative team as partisan, reiterated that he has nothing to hide. “We have an investigation of something that never took place,” Mr. Trump said.
The president also said he thought it was “pretty tough stuff” for FBI agents to raid the Virginia home of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, before dawn as part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.
“I thought it was pretty tough stuff to wake him up, perhaps his family was there,” Mr. Trump said. “They do that very seldom, so I was surprised to see it. I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever.”
One of Mr. Trump’s private attorneys, John Dowd, called last month’s Manafort raid “a gross abuse of the judicial process” and “an extraordinary invasion of privacy.”
“These methods are normally found and employed in Russia not America,” Mr. Dowd told the Wall Street Journal.
Also Thursday, the law firm that was representing Mr. Manafort said he is seeking new counsel. A representative of the WilmerHale law firm said as of Thursday, it “no longer represents Mr. Manafort.”
“Mr. Manafort is in the process of retaining his former counsel, Miller & Chevalier, to represent him in the office of special counsel investigation,” said a statement from the firm.
Mr. Manafort, 68, faces an intensifying probe by Mr. Mueller. WilmerHale also employed Mr. Mueller until he was appointed special counsel in May to investigate allegations that Trump associates colluded with Russia to win the election.
The president said Mr. Manafort, who had business dealings with pro-Russia interests in Ukraine, is “a very decent man.”
“He’s like a lot of other people, probably makes consultant fees from all over the place, who knows, I don’t know,” Mr. Trump said. “Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him.”
Asked about his rocky relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump said, “It is what it is. It’s fine. He’s working hard on the border. I’m very proud of what we’ve done at the border.”
The president has criticized Mr. Sessions repeatedly in recent weeks as “weak,” angry that he recused himself from any Russia investigations.
Mr. Trump also thanked, mockingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling more than 700 U.S. personnel from Russia in retaliation for the Obama administration expelling suspected Russian spies from the U.S. late last year and seizing two Russian-operated compounds.
“We’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”