Trump derides Mueller's obstruction probe as a 'setup' and 'trap'

President Trump on Wednesday called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president’s possible obstruction of justice in the ongoing federal probe of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia a “setup” and a “trap.”

Trump has for months complained about the probe, which he has repeatedly labeled a “witch hunt.” He did so again Wednesday morning.

“There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap),” Trump tweeted. “What there is is Negotiations going on with North Korea over Nuclear War, Negotiations going on with China over Trade Deficits, Negotiations on NAFTA, and much more. Witch Hunt!”

Trump’s tweet comes amid multiple reports that his lawyers and the special counsel are heading toward a possible legal showdown over an interview Mueller wants to conduct with the commander in chief.

On Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that Mueller raised possibility of presidential subpoena during a “tense” early March meeting with Trump’s legal team.

“Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign,” the Post reported. “But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury.”

RELATED: Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
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CNN reported that Trump’s legal team is bracing for the possibility of the case ultimately going to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, most legal experts say a Trump-Mueller interview would be a minefield for a president who has made, by the Post’s count, more than 3,000 false or misleading claims since taking office.

On Monday, the New York Times published a report that included more than 40 questions that Mueller would like to ask Trump. The Times said it obtained the questions, which were given to the president’s lawyers, from a person who is not part of Trump’s legal team.

Mueller, who has reportedly been seeking an interview with Trump for months, appears to want to know about a broad array of issues, including Trump’s thinking regarding the firings of national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey. Trump’s firing of Comey prompted the Justice Department to appoint Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation. Comey says he believes he was fired because of the probe.

The questions also address Trump’s attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as the president’s knowledge of his campaign’s interactions with figures tied to the Kremlin. In particular, the special counsel is interested in the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower — attended by Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then campaign manager, Paul Manafort — with a Russian lawyer who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“This list reinforces the notion that the president should not go in for an interview with Mueller,” Sol Wisenberg, a defense lawyer who served as deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, told the Times. “Mueller knows all kinds of things — we don’t know exactly what he knows — and these are both broad and detailed questions, making real land mines.”

Related: What Mueller’s questions for Trump reveal about the investigation

On Tuesday, Trump called the disclosure of Mueller’s questions “disgraceful” and falsely suggested that a person can’t be charged with obstructing justice if no underlying crime is ultimately found.

“Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed,” he tweeted.

The president added: “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!”

In a follow-up tweet Wednesday, Trump quoted Joe diGenova, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney who on Tuesday argued in a Sirius satellite radio interview that Mueller’s questions are “an intrusion” into the president’s article II power to fire anyone he pleases.

“To ask questions, as Mr. Mueller apparently proposes to do, about what the president was thinking when he fired Comey, or Flynn, or anybody else, is an outrageous, sophomoric, juvenile intrusion into the president’s unfettered power to fire anyone in the executive branch,” diGenova said. An excerpt of the interview appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Tuesday night.

Trump is known to regularly watch the show and use Hannity as an informal adviser.

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