Savannah Guthrie grills Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the 'Today' show over Trump targeting key figures in the Russia probe

  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sparred with Savannah Guthrie of the "Today" show over Trump's reported pattern of attacking key figures in the Russia investigation.
  • Sanders bemoaned the media's focus on the investigation, while Guthrie pressed her on Trump's own actions during the probe and his role in prolonging and widening its scope.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was grilled by Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday morning over why President Donald Trump always seems to attack key figures in the Russia investigation, and whether there's anything to hide.

"One by one, [Trump has] gone after every single one of the Justice Department officials who is connected to this, whether it's his own attorney general, whether it's the former director of the FBI, James Comey, who he fired, whether it's Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI — even saying he would fire [special counsel Robert] Mueller. If there's nothing to see here and he's innocent, why does he go after all the Justice Department officials connected to the Russia investigation?" asked Guthrie. "Doesn't it, at a minimum, look bad?"

Sanders responded that Trump had not considered firing Robert Mueller, keeping in line with the president's denial of a story last week in The New York Times that said he was only reconsidered after White House counsel Don McGahn refused to direct the Justice Department to fire Mueller — and threatened to resign if Trump followed through.

"We've been fully cooperative," Sanders said. "We volunteered thousands and thousands of documents. Over 20 different individuals have done interviews; we've been as transparent as possible about this process."

The interview came the morning after McCabe resigned as deputy director at the FBI amid repeated Trump criticism.

Guthrie again asserted that Trump has "gone after every single person at the top of this investigation," then asking Sanders: "If there's nothing to see here and he [Trump] wants to cooperate, why does he continually go after people who are connected to the investigation?"

People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe
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People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions 

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former FBI Director James Comey

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump advisor Stephen Miller

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner 


Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled the reported Trump dossier 

(Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sam Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Sanders laid the blame on the investigators themselves, suggesting some ulterior motives behind their actions.

"Frankly if some of these individuals were 'just trying to do the investigation', they would have done it and it would have been wrapped up," Sanders said, repeating that the investigation had not found anything conclusive.

Sanders said Americans were "sick and tired of being inundated with Russia fever," but Guthrie pressed her on Trump's own role in continuing the story.

"Would you agree, though, that had the president not fired Director Comey, there wouldn't be a a special counsel and a special investigation and an obstruction of justice investigation that centers around him? Didn't his own actions bring this upon himself?" asked Guthrie.

Sanders answered that the Trump administration has been finding "more and more reason that [Comey] shouldn't have been the head of the FBI," due to his alleged leaking of memos describing his interactions with Trump. "The president made the right decision" with regard to firing Comey, concluded Sanders.

Again trying to move the conversation past the Russia investigation and onto Trump's first State of the Union address, slated for Tuesday evening, Sanders exhorted Guthrie to "imagine how many more good things for the country we would have been able to do this past year" without the focus on Russia.

Guthrie chuckled, and closed out the segment by saying "the press focuses on [Russia], but that's because the president focuses on it and tweeting about it."

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