Just one day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced his resignation from the Department of Justice and the formal shuttering of the Russia probe, President Trump slammed the special counsel, saying Mueller "should have never been chosen" to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
"I think he's totally conflicted," Mr. Trump claimed while leaving the White House for Colorado on Thursday. "He loves [James] Comey. You look at the relationship of those two. So whether it's love or deep like, he was conflicted. Robert Mueller should never have been chosen because he wanted the FBI job and he didn't get it and the next day he was picked as special counsel...plus we had a business dispute." the president also accused Mueller of being part of the "Never Trump" movement of Republicans in 2016 and lambasted him for not investigating former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe.
His comments come after Mueller, in his first public statement about his Russia probe, did not explicitly exonerate the president from wrongdoing after the nearly two-year long investigation, and instead explained why his office never considered indicting him for obstruction of justice.
Mr. Trump also had an exchange with CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid about Mueller's remarks. Reid pointed out that Mueller did not exonerate him. "He couldn't clear you," she pointed out.
"That means you're innocent. That means you're innocent," Mr. Trump said.
"He said he couldn't say you were innocent," Reid countered.
"Then he should have said, 'You're guilty,'" Mr. Trump responded.
Reid reminded him that Mueller had said he wouldn't make that pronouncement because it would be unfair.
"He said essentially, 'You're innocent,'" Mr. Trump said. He added, "There was no crime, there was no collusion there was no nothing. And this is from a group of people that hate me. If they only found anything, they would have had it and he knows it better than anybody."
In response to Mueller's statement, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that "nothing changes from the Mueller Report."
"There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you," Mr. Trump wrote. He repeated those claims on the South Lawn.
"It was the same as the report. Not much changed. No obstruction, no collusion, no nothing. It's nothing but a witch hunt. It keeps going. It was the same as the report," the president remarked.
Mr. Trump also said he "was not informed about anything having to do with" theafter officers were told to keep a warship out of Mr. Trump's view during his Memorial Day weekend visit to Japan. The late McCain has been a frequent political target of Mr. Trump, who often criticizes McCain over his "no" vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
CBS News' David Martin confirmed that an email requesting the warship be moved out of sight for the president's visit to Yokosuka Naval Base this weekend was authentic. The request came from the White House.
The president again denied those reports, saying firmly that he was "not involved" in the decision-making process.
"I would not have done that. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way shape or form. To me John McCain, I wasn't a fan. But I would never do a thing like that. Now, someone did it because they thought I didn't like him. They were well-meaning, I will say. But I wouldn't have," Mr. Trump said. He added that he knew "nothing about" the decision to move the ship.
On his way to Singapore, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said, "I never authorized, I never approved any action around the movement or activity regarding that ship. Furthermore, I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain." He added that his chief of staff would look into the matter.