President Donald Trump took shots at the FBI and the Justice Department during a half-hour phone interview on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning, hinting that at “some point” he might step in and take action.
“You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI – it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t.”
The President suggested that because of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the possibility of the Trump campaign coordinating with Russia, he has decided that he will not be involved. However, he added, “I may change my mind at some point.”
“I’ve taken the position – and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change – that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait until this is over. It’s a total, it’s all lies and it’s a horrible thing that’s going on, a horrible thing,” he continued.
Trump added, “Because of the fact that they have this witch hunt going on with people in the Justice Department that shouldn’t be there. They have a witch hunt against the President of the United States going on.”
Trump says FBI’s leadership was ‘crooked’
The President also suggested those investigating for the Mueller probe are “so conflicted.”
“The people who are doing the investigation – you have 13 people that are Democrats, you have Hillary Clinton people, you have people who worked on Hillary Clinton’s foundation. They’re all – I don’t mean Democrats I mean, like, the real deal,” Trump said.
Trump also criticized fired FBI Director James Comey and fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“I love the FBI. The FBI loves me, but the top people, headed by Comey, were crooked. You look at McCabe, where he takes $700,000 from somebody supporting Hillary Clinton,” Trump said, referring to donations to McCabe’s wife’s political campaign.
Trump said he thought he “did a great thing” by firing Comey last year.
Republicans urge restraint
Later Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation to protect the special counsel from being fired, a rare bipartisan step that sends a warning signal to Trump not to fire Mueller.
The legislation, which would give Mueller and other special counsels the ability to challenge their firing in court, has little chance of becoming law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed not to put it on the floor, House Republicans have shown no interest in the measure, and Trump would be unlikely to sign it.
Following the President’s “Fox & Friends” appearance, GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee urged Trump not to interfere with the DOJ’s probe.
“I think it would be Ill-advised … I think that would be a big mistake,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t understand why the President would take such a step when the investigation has yet to link him to the Russians.
“It seems like after one year that there has been no evidence, at least that has been made public, no evidence that there’s been any truth to the accusations of collusion between the President and Russia,” Grassley said Thursday. “So why would he want to raise an issue that’s so far going favorable to him?”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters that he would take steps legislatively on a protection bill for Mueller and let Trump deal with the DOJ himself.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said that “in the end, the President will do what he wants to do.”
“I just hope he does not want to do this,” he added.
CNN’s Allie Malloy, Manu Raju, and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.