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Trump calls for Mueller probe termination

US President Donald Trump has blatantly called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to terminate “right now” a federal probe into his 2016 election winning campaign, launching a renewed attack on the special counsel investigation that could imperil his presidency.
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Trump’s call came as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial entered its second day after he was charged by special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation team.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick to explain that Trump’s tweet was “not an order” and the president was not directing his attorney general to do anything.

“It’s the president’s opinion,” she said.

But Trump’s early morning tweetstorm again raised the spectre that he could try to more directly bring special counsel Mueller’s Russia-Trump election-collusion probe to a premature end.

It also revived the idea that Trump’s tweets themselves could become evidence that he is attempting to obstruct justice.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said negotiations are continuing to have Trump sit down for questions from Mueller with both sides working to set the conditions for such an interview.

Trump has in recent days raged privately that government forces and the media are trying to undermine him. This includes Manafort’s charges and distorting the Helsinki summit to make it appear he was beholden to Russia, according to two Republicans close to the White House not authorised to speak about private conversations.

Trump is closely monitoring news coverage of the Manafort proceedings, which provoked the spate of incendiary tweets, according to the two Republicans and two White House officials.

“The president’s not obstructing, he’s fighting back,” Sanders said, dismissing the idea Trump’s tweets could be tantamount to obstruction of justice.

The most inflammatory of Trump’s tweets said, “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”

The president’s anger came the day after the start of Manafort’s trial on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion. Manafort has not been charged with any election-related charges but the Russian investigation is hanging over both the Alexandria, Virginia, courthouse and Trump’s White House.

“Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders,” Trump tweeted. “He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn’t government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion – a Hoax!”

Later the president invoked one of the nation’s most notorious criminals, 1920s gangster Al Capone, and posed the question “who was treated worse” while airing his grievance about Manafort being held in solitary confinement ahead of a conviction. Manafort is in detention after having his bail revoked because of allegations that he was attempting to tamper with witnesses in his case. Federal prosecutors revealed last month that he was afforded unusual privileges while in detention.

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