President Donald Trump denied Monday that he had lashed out at acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker over developments in the case of Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, as CNN reported last week.
“I never ‘lashed out’ at the Acting Attorney General of the U.S., a man for whom I have great respect,” Trump tweeted.
He called the report a “made up story.”
Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general after the President fired Jeff Sessions in November.
CNN cited multiple sources last week who said Trump had taken out his frustrations on Whitaker at least twice over the past month.
The President was frustrated that prosecutors under Whitaker’s purview had filed charges in the Cohen case that Trump felt made him look bad, the sources said.
According to the sources, the first known occurrence when the President voiced anger to Whitaker was after Cohen’s November 29 guilty plea, in which Cohen admitted to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Trump also vented to Whitaker when prosecutors in Manhattan officially implicated the President in a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of women around the 2016 campaign, sources said.
The President’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, could not confirm the conversations with Whitaker but said the President views the SDNY prosecutors as out of control. “The president and his lawyers are upset about the professional prosecutors in the Southern District of New York going after a non-crime and the innuendo the president was involved,” Giuliani said in a statement to CNN on Friday.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump criticizing Whitaker over the Cohen investigation shows his disrespect for the rule of law.
“This is just the president ignoring the rule of law, ignoring decades of precedent and policy,” Schiff told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “This is exactly what we feared about Whitaker’s appointment, that he was picked not because he was qualified for the job – he really isn’t – but he was picked because he was auditioning on TV talking down the Mueller investigation, talking about he could – how we could privately cripple the Mueller investigation.”
He added, “The President of the United States is discussing a case, in which he is implicated, with the attorney general. That is wrong at every level. And, of course, it will taint anything that this acting attorney general does, any role he plays in this investigation. This is a real assault on the rule of law. And we are going to scrutinize every single action by Matt Whitaker to make sure that the public knows just what he does.”
CNN’s Laura Jarrett and Pamela Brown contributed to this report.