President Donald Trump said Wednesday night that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation would not have happened if Attorney General William Barr had been in his current position at the time.
Barr “is a great gentleman,” Trump told host Sean Hannity in an interview on Fox News. “Had he been there initially, this all would not have happened.”
Barr, a Trump appointee, released a summary on Sunday of special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump obstructed justice in the 2016 presidential election.
In his four-page summary, Barr wrote that the special counsel report did not find that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, but also said the report did not exonerate Trump from possible obstruction of justice to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation. The president falsely claimed “total exoneration” after Barr’s summary became public.
After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named Mueller special counsel in May 2017, shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump told Hannity on Wednesday that the FBI’s conduct during the investigation, specifically that of former bureau officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, amounted to treason.
Strzok was taken off Mueller’s team and eventually fired from the FBI after Justice Department investigators discovered anti-Trump texts he’d sent to Page. He testified last year after an inspector general report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton probe described anti-Trump texts between bureau officials.
“If the Republican Party had done this to Democrats, if we had done this to President [Barack] Obama, you’d have 100 people in jail right now and it would be treason,” Trump said Wednesday.
The president has repeatedly cited treason to describe situations in which the word is unlikely to apply. The legal definition of treason, as written in the Constitution, says: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
When Hannity asked the president if he would consider pardoning former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who both admitted lying to the FBI in the Mueller investigation, Trump said he did not “want to talk about pardons now.”
“Many, many people were hurt, incredibly hurt, by this whole scam,” he told Hannity. “I don’t want to talk about pardons now, but … it’s so sad on so many levels.”
Mueller’s probe has resulted in dozens of indictments of people in Trump’s circle, including Papadopoulos and Flynn. The special counsel also indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign deputy Richard Gates, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and Trump associate Roger Stone.
Democrats have been pushing for Barr to release the Mueller’s full, unredacted report to Congress and to the public. On Monday, House Democrats sent a letter to the attorney general, giving him until April 2 to release the report.
This story has been updated with details on the Mueller investigation and the definition of treason.