WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he has “complete power” to issue pardons, an assertion that comes amid investigations into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. It was one of many topics that appeared to occupy the president’s mind as the day broke.
On a day when most people are ready to forget about the issues that nagged them during the week, Trump revved up. In an early morning flurry of 10 tweets, he commented about pardons, former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, son Don Jr., health care, the USS Gerald Ford, the attorney general and other issues.
Trump said in one of his 10 messages: “While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS.”
The Washington Post recently reported that Trump has inquired about the authority he has as president to pardon aides, relatives or even himself in connection with the widening investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether any Trump associates were involved.
The president has long criticized leaks of information about the investigation, and has urged authorities to prosecute leakers.
Trump maintains that no crimes have been committed.
One of Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said the president has not discussed the issue of pardons with his outside legal team.
Sekulow reiterated that point Saturday evening. Speaking to reporters at the site of the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, he said that Trump’s private legal team is “not researching it because it’s not an issue.”
“I don’t know where this came from. There is nothing to pardon,” said Sekulow, who added that “what’s going on in Washington is an attack on the president.”
Next week, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner; and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, are scheduled to appear before Senate committees investigating Russian meddling.
Trump defended his son in one of the tweets, saying he “openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!” Trump’s namesake has become a focus of the investigation after it was revealed that he, Kushner and Manafort met with Russian representatives at Trump Tower in June 2016. Trump Jr. later released email exchanges concerning the meeting on Twitter, after learning that The New York Times was about to publish them.
The FBI investigated Clinton for using a private email server as secretary of state. She turned over thousands of pages of emails to the government, but deleted thousands of others that she said were personal or unrelated to her work as the nation’s top diplomat.
Trump also complained Saturday about a Washington Post report that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. said he discussed election-related issues with Jeff Sessions when the men met during the 2016 presidential race. Sessions, now the attorney general, at the time was a U.S. senator and foreign policy adviser to Trump.
Trump tweeted: “A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!”
The Post on Friday cited anonymous U.S. officials who described U.S. intelligence intercepts of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak‘s descriptions of his meetings with Sessions.
The Justice Department said Sessions stands by his previous assertion that he never had conversations with Russian officials about any type of interference with the election.
Trump also said “Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace” the Obama-era health care law. An effort to advance legislation collapsed in the Senate earlier this week after several Republicans said they wouldn’t vote for the bill.
Trump ended the tweet with “Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!”
AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.
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[Screengrab via NBC]