President Trump told Fox News’ “Hannity” in a wide-ranging interview Thursday night that Attorney General Bill Barr is handling the “incredible” and “big” new revelations that Ukrainian actors apparently leaked damaging information about then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Last month, Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko opened a probe into the so-called black ledger files that led to Manafort’s abrupt departure from the Trump campaign. The investigation came after an unearthed audio recording showed that a senior Ukrainian anticorruption official apparently admitted to leaking Manafort’s financial information in 2016 — including his ties to pro-Russian actors in Ukraine — to benefit Clinton.
Ukrainian law enforcement officials said earlier this month they have a slew of evidence of collusion and wrongdoing by Democrats, and that they have been trying to share this information with U.S. officials in the Justice Department.
Asked by host Sean Hannity whether Americans need to see the results of Ukraine’s ongoing investigation into whether officials in that country worked with the Clinton team, Trump replied: “I think we do.”
With that remark, Trump echoed his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “Keep your eye on Ukraine.”
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A Ukrainian court recently ruled that the Manafort leak amounted to illegal interference in the U.S. election.
Separately, a 2017 investigation by Politico found that Ukrainian officials not only publicly sought to undermine Trump by questioning his fitness for office, but also worked behind the scenes to secure a Clinton victory.
Among other initiatives, Politico found, the Ukrainian government worked with a DNC consultant to conduct opposition research against Trump, including going after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for Russian ties, helping lead to his resignation.
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“I would imagine [Barr] would want to see this,” Trump said, referring to the results of Ukraine’s probe into possible Clinton-Ukraine collusion. “I would certainly defer to the attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it. He calls ’em straight.”
Trump added: “It sounds like big stuff, very interesting with Ukraine. I just spoke with the new president a while ago, and congratulated him. … But that sounds like big, big stuff, and I’m not surprised.”
Trump also unloaded on former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, following a Fox News report earlier in the day concerning newly revealed internal text messages between the two.
“Really, it’s a coup. It’s spying.”
The messages indicated they discussed using briefings to the Trump team after the 2016 election to identify people they could “develop for potential relationships,” track lines of questioning and “assess” changes in “demeanor” – language one GOP lawmaker called “more evidence” of irregular conduct in the original Russia probe.
“They were trying to infiltrate the administration,” Trump told host Sean Hannity. “Really, it’s a coup. It’s spying. It’s hard to believe in this country we would have had that.”
Trump continued: “I think it’s far bigger than Watergate, I think it’s possibly the biggest scandal in political history in this country, maybe beyond political.”
Trump summed up the development as “very disconcerting” and emphasized that Strzok and Page used their government-issued phones not only to exchange numerous anti-Trump text messages but also to hide their extramarital affair from their spouses.
“They were going hog wild to find something about the administration, which obviously wasn’t there,” Trump charged, referring to Strzok and Page as “two beauties,” “lovers,” and “sick, sick people” who are “like children, when you look at them.”
“They’re trying to infiltrate the White House, long after the election,” Trump said. “This is a disgrace. Hopefully the attorney general will do what’s right, and I believe he will. … It’s possibly the greatest scandal in the history of this country.”
As for his widely mocked tweet that the Obama intelligence community had wiretapped Trump Tower — which was followed months later by the revelation that the FBI had, in fact, monitored one of his former aides — Trump said his remarks were the product of a “little bit of a hunch” and a “little bit of wisdom.”
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Trump additionally voiced little confidence in Robert Mueller, saying the special counsel was perhaps “best friends” with former FBI Director James Comey — whose termination led to Mueller’s appointment.
Trump also faulted Mueller for, in his view, needlessly wrecking the careers of many members of his team.
Trump asserted he had “turned down” Mueller to head the FBI, and that Mueller was “conflicted” not only “because of the fact that Comey and him are best friends,” but also because Trump “had a nasty business transaction” with Mueller.
That was an apparent reference to an episode, referenced in Mueller’s report, in which Mueller sought a refund — apparently unsuccessfully — from Trump after withdrawing from membership in his golf club.
But Trump said it was a “very good” sign that the New York Times acknowledged in a recent article that there were credibility problems in the discredited dossier that the FBI used to justify surveilling one of his campaign aides.
The Times finally joined a chorus of publications that have long cast doubt on the dossier’s veracity, writing that the document “financed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee” was “likely to face new, possibly harsh scrutiny from multiple inquiries.”
The article noted that British ex-spy Christopher Steele relied in part on Russian sources and that, ironically, the document could have been part of a “Russian disinformation” effort to smear Trump even as Moscow was going after Clinton.
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The article, Trump said, suggested that dossier skepticism, once panned as denialism, has entered the mainstream, as Mueller’s report found “some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false, and others were impossible to prove.”
As he did in his previous interview on “Hannity,” Trump vowed to declassify and release not only the documents related to the surveillance warrants to surveil his campaign, and even more.
“Everything’s going to be declassified, and more,” Trump said. “It’ll all be declassified.”
“Everything’s going to be declassified, and more. It’ll all be declassified.”
Responding to the entrance of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race, Trump emphasized the economic growth and health care successes for veterans under his administration, who “don’t have to die waiting in line” anymore.
Biden attracted mockery on Thursday for insisting that he told former President Barack Obama not to endorse his run.
“I’ve known Joe over the years. He’s not the brightest lightbulb in the group,” Trump said. “But he has a name they know.”