President Donald Trump told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that he was not calling for Republicans in Congress to shut down investigations into possible collusion between Russians and his 2016 campaign when he tweeted on Wednesday that Republicans “should finally take control.”
Trump said his message to congressional Republicans, while perceived as a call to end the investigations into collusion, was nothing more than him asking his party to “be tough.”
“The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing,” Trump tweeted. “Republicans should finally take control!”
“I just want them to be tough, be strong,” Trump said in the interview. “I also think that primary collusion, because there was no collusion on our side, the collusion was on the Democrat side with the Russians.”
Trump has long derided the investigations into possible collusion, slamming the inquiries as nothing more than a “witch hunt” and complaining about Republicans who are going along with the congressional investigations. Trump has also long maligned Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself and allowing special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate the collusion allegations.
Trump then pivoted from his call for Republicans to wrest control of the investigations and attacked the FBI agents whose anti-Trump text messages were released by Congress late last year.
“That is treason. See, that’s treason right there,” Trump said. “By the way, that’s a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”
Trump was referring to a series of text messages between Peter Strzok, one of the FBI’s top Russian counterintelligence experts, and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The two FBI officials, during the 2016 campaign, referred to Trump as an “idiot” and “d*uche” during the 2016 election and said that his victory was “terrifying,” according to documents reviewed by CNN.
“I cannot believe Donald Trump is likely to be an actual, serious candidate for president,” Page texted Strzok on March 16, 2016. “God(,) Trump is a loathsome human,” Page added in another, to which Strzok replies: “Yet he may win.”
The text messages were released to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in December and Republicans have seized on the messages as proof that Mueller’s probe is biased against Trump. Trump has previously used the text messages to deride the FBI, whose reputation he had claimed was “in tatters.”
Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team after the special counsel learned about the messages last summer.
In a conversation with reporters at the White House in December, Trump said he was going “to rebuild the FBI” after the controversy, which he described as “really, really disgraceful.”