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A file photo of US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
A file photo of US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Donald Trump in tweet flurry a day before Russia charges may hit

Donald Trump attacks Hillary Clinton, a day before the first charges may be announced from a special prosecutor investigating Russian involvement in last year's election

Washington: President Donald Trump unleashed a flurry of messages attacking Hillary Clinton and Democrats, a day before the first charges may be announced from a special prosecutor investigating Russian involvement in last year’s election.

“There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out," Trump tweeted as lawmakers and pundits debated the potential impact of criminal charges on news shows. “DO SOMETHING!"

“The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics," he told his 41 million Twitter followers, adding that Republicans are “are now fighting back like never before."

Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said Trump’s tweets weren’t triggered by looming news on the Russian investigation. “Contrary to what many have suggested, the president’s comments today are unrelated to the activities of the special counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate," Cobb said in an emailed statement.

Still, minutes before the president’s Twitter account became active, former US attorney Preet Bharara said on CNN’s “State of the Union" that people should watch Trump’s reaction to any charges that might emerge in the investigation being led by former FBI director Robert Mueller.

“I would look for a couple of things, one, whether or not Donald Trump has some reaction and talks in a way that could be used against him in the future, because Bob Mueller would do that," Bharara said.

“The second thing I would look at is to see if the president of the United States is sending some kind of message to the potential defendant or other witnesses," he said. Whether the president plans to pardon people facing charges should be watched “very, very closely," said Bharara.

The grand jury associated with Mueller’s investigation has approved the first charges stemming from the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign, according to multiple news reports. The identity of the person or persons facing charges hasn’t been revealed.

US Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week" that lawmakers “haven’t been informed" of who may be charged on Monday, and that it wouldn’t be appropriate for Mueller to say.

Rhetoric on all sides has been stepped up, with the Wall Street Journal last week calling on Mueller to step down. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who has advised Trump, on Sunday stopped short of demanding a resignation, but signalled that the prosecutor is being closely watched.

“He has to be very, very careful about making sure that the public believes that he has no conflicts and that his integrity is unquestioned," Christie said on CNN. The president isn’t under investigation, Christie said.

Scrutinizing charges

Looking to Monday’s possible events, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said it would be “important whether or not this indictment involves 15-year-old business transactions or 15-day-old conversations with Russia."

“It’s really important what the charge is. It’s really important who the person being charged is," Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday."

Gowdy said he’s “in an increasingly small group of Republicans" not calling for Mueller’s dismissal: “give the guy a chance to do his job."

Christie and Schiff downplayed Trump’s ability to pardon defendants before a criminal case is completed, the way he did for former Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio on 25 August. While Schiff called Trump’s pardon of Arpaio “a horrible precedent," he said the president’s power is not unlimited and can’t be used to obstruct justice.

Uranium deal

In his morning tweets, Trump revisited concerns about a uranium deal with Russia that occurred while Clinton was secretary of State and emails sent by Clinton from a private server located in her home. He also wrote about the secret dossier on him that was paid for by Democrats.

“All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!" Trump said.

Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat who was a federal and state prosecutor before becoming the governor of Michigan, said on CNN that the reaction by Republicans and Trump to pivot back to Clinton, the uranium deal and other issues were an effort to distract from Mueller’s probe.

“If someone was doing consistently things to throw people off the trail, if they were attacking, of course, the investigator, it’s all evidence of a state of mind -- a guilty state of mind," Granholm said. Bloomberg

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