President Trump Isn't Abandoning Criticism Of FBI And The Russia Investigation

May 30, 2018
Originally published on May 30, 2018 8:58 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The White House says President Trump is sticking to his criticism of the FBI and the Russia investigation. That's despite a Republican lawmaker poking a hole in the president's claims that an FBI informant was actually a spy implanted in Trump's campaign for political purposes. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now from the White House to understand all this. Hey, there Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So the Republican we're going to talk about is Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. He chairs the House Oversight Committee. He's one of just a few members who actually attended last week's classified briefing on this whole FBI informant issue. Here's what he told Fox News last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TREY GOWDY: I'm even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

CORNISH: Has nothing to do with Donald Trump. So, Mara, wouldn't the White House be happy with that assessment?

LIASSON: They don't sound too happy, although as a matter of fact, none of the lawmakers who attended that classified briefing came out and said they'd been shown evidence that backs up the president's repeated claims that the Obama administration sent a spy to infiltrate his campaign. But today, the White House press secretary said the president still believes there's, quote, "cause for concern about the FBI."

But the only conclusion lawmakers have talked about after they went to that meeting, which the president asked for in the interest of, quote, "total transparency," was, as you just heard, according to Trey Gowdy, that the FBI was looking into what the Russians were up to, not what Donald Trump was up to.

CORNISH: In the meantime, The New York Times reports that the president tried to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal on the investigation. People will remember Jeff Sessions recused himself. And what is the significance of that right now, Trump's latest comments?

LIASSON: Well, the significance of that is that that could be potential evidence of obstruction of justice. But we already knew that Trump was very unhappy with Sessions' decision to recuse himself, according to DOJ rules. Today, the president tweeted he wished he hadn't chosen Sessions in the first place. Sarah Sanders was asked if he's so unhappy with Sessions, why not fire him? She didn't really answer that question. But the problem is that even though Trump seems to want to fire Sessions, Republican senators have reportedly told him in private that they wouldn't confirm a replacement for Sessions.

So for now, he's stuck with an AG who's recused from overseeing and therefore reining in the special counsel's investigation. So he continues to publicly disparage Jeff Sessions. At the same time, he's continuing this bigger effort of undermining the credibility of the FBI and the Mueller investigation.

CORNISH: Finally, the president weighed in on a major controversy in the entertainment world in the last 24 hours, Roseanne Barr. What did he have to say?

LIASSON: This is really interesting. Roseanne Barr is a friend. She's a big fan of his. He's a big fan of her show. He's told his supporters that he believes the show is about him and his supporters. He says, it's about us. He's reveled in the success of the show, talked about its high ratings. But the president did not come to defend Roseanne Barr's racist tweet. No one is doing that, not even Sean Hannity, who's criticized it too. But he did complain in a tweet about the apology that ABC gave to Valerie Jarrett, the African-American former Obama administration official who Roseanne Barr compared to an ape.

He tweeted, gee, Bob Iger never called Donald J. Trump to apologize for the horrible statements made about me. And Sarah Sanders continued that argument today in the briefing. Here's what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Where was Bob Iger's apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist, to Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness? Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president...

LIASSON: Well, Jemele Hill was suspended, Kathy Griffin did lose her show. But once again, what you can see is that the president's MO is to be in a fight with a foil that he finds politically useful to him. Whether it's the FBI or the mainstream media, he's always in a culture war. He's one of the most effective culture warriors around.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.