- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2019

President Trump trained his fire Tuesday on “very high up” Obama administration officials for launching the two-year Russia investigation, suggesting the decisions to spy on his campaign and spread phony accusations of treason could have reached President Obama himself.

“It went very high up and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high-up [officials],” Mr. Trump told reporters at the Capitol. “I think it went very high up. This should never happen to a president again.”

Asked whether the Obama White House was responsible for planting the accusations of collusion with Moscow, Mr. Trump replied, “I don’t want to say that, but I think you know the answer.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller said in his final report that there was no evidence of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russians during the 2016 election. He spent nearly two years and $25 million to reach that conclusion.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman, has called on Attorney General William P. Barr to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the FBI’s origins of the Russia probe, and the decision to spy on the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump was warming to that idea on Tuesday.

“They and others created a fraud on our country with this ridiculous witch hunt where it was proven very strongly no collusion, no obstruction, no nothing,” Mr. Trump said of those who pushed the probe.

The first poll released since the Mueller report’s conclusions were made public showed no change of Mr. Trump’s approval rating. The Morning Consult/Politico survey found 42 percent of voters approve of the president and 55 percent disapprove, unchanged from the same poll a week before the Mueller report.

The survey also found that Democrats and Republicans have hardened their positions about the investigation, while independents were 9 percentage points more likely to express unfavorable views about the president, 41 percent to 32 percent.

The FBI used the uncorroborated Steele Dossier on Mr. Trump in 2016, funded partly by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to place a wiretap on a Trump campaign official. The agency opened its investigation of possible collusion with Russia in July 2016.

Mr. Trump eventually fired FBI Director James B. Comey in May 2017, a move that prompted the Justice Department to appoint Mr. Mueller to carry out the Russia investigation. The probe was led for a time by FBI agent Peter Strzok, whose text messages later revealed extreme anti-Trump bias.

Among the former Obama administration officials who were pushing the collusion narrative publicly and behind the scenes was John O. Brennan, who led the CIA until Mr. Trump took office.

Mr. Obama hasn’t said whether he approved or knew of the FBI spying on the Trump campaign, now widely regarded as an abuse of power. In a text message on Sept. 2, 2016, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page told Mr. Strzok that she was preparing talking points on the probe because “potus wants to know everything we’re doing,” using the acronym for “president of the United States.”

Democrats said the Russia investigation wasn’t partisan, but was the product of concerns raised by career national security officials.

“Seventeen different intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered with the election and attacked our democracy as part of an effort to try and artificially place Donald Trump at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat. “These 17 different intelligence agencies aren’t filled with warm and fuzzy liberals.”

He said “every single major player connected to the Mueller investigation, as far as I can tell, is a Republican.”

“James Comey is a Republican,” Mr. Jeffries said. “The current FBI Director Christopher Wray who presided over the investigation on the FBI side is a Republican. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who appointed the special counsel, is a Republican. Bob Mueller who presided over the investigation into Russia’s interference with the election is a Republican. Was this a vast right-wing Republican conspiracy? That perhaps is the question that Lindsey Graham should spend his time addressing.”

The president called the Mueller report “great” and said “it could not have been better,” although it’s unclear whether he has seen a copy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday that he supports Mr. Graham’s intent to hold hearings on the FBI’s conduct.

“It’s not inappropriate for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over the Justice Department to investigate possible misbehavior,” Mr. McConnell said.

But former Vice President Joesph R. Biden and former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough have blamed Mr. McConnell for watering down a statement that the White House wanted to release with congressional leaders in fall 2016 about the Russia threat.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has sent a blacklist memo to TV networks warning them away from Democrats who are “lying to the American people” about false claims of collusion with Russia.

The memo, titled “Credibility of Certain Guests,” urges TV producers not to do business with Democrats such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, Mr. Brennan, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez.

In a tweet Tuesday, President Trump said the burden falls on the media.

“For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!”

The campaign’s memo asks network news producers to reconsider whether these Democrats and others “warrant further appearances on your programming given the outrageous and unsupported claims made in the past.”

The campaign called this group of frequent talking heads “Democrat leaders and others [who are] lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion.”

Mr. Brennan, one of the president’s fiercest critics, said on MSNBC, “I don’t know if I received bad information but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was.”

Mr. Swalwell tweeted, “The only person who has been caught lying about Russia is Donald Trump. If he thinks I’ve made a false statement, he can sue me. And I’ll beat him in court.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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