Trump calls for an end to 'rigged witch-hunt' over links to Russia
Donald trump has urged his attorney general to end the investigation into Russian election meddling, once again ramping up the rhetoric on the inquiry overshadowing his presidency.
The US president also distanced himself from Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, who is on trial for bank fraud and tax evasion, noting they worked together only for a "very short time".
Mr Trump's early-morning tweets came at a time when special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential campaign was again in the headlines.
Mr Manafort appeared in court on Tuesday - the first time someone indicted by the Mueller probe has stood trial. It is being seen as a key early test for the investigation.
Mr Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation after Mr Trump fired James Comey as FBI director in May 2017. The FBI had been probing the Trump campaign's ties to Russia since before the election.
Mr Trump yesterday tweeted: "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!"
Mr Trump later suggested that Mr Manafort was being "treated worse" than Al Capone, the gangster, despite not yet being convicted of a crime. Mr Manafort has been in jail ahead of the trial for alleged witness tampering.
Mr Trump has issued a series of escalating direct attacks on the special counsel in recent months.
The president has suggested Mr Mueller, who led the FBI from 2001 to 2013, has a conflict of interest on the Russia case and has picked lawyers who are politically biased.
Mr Mueller is looking into obstruction of justice claims and probing contacts the Trump campaign had with Russian-linked figures before the 2016 vote. Others topics, such as Russian hacking, are also being investigated.
Mr Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe, to the fury of the president, meaning his number two, Rod Rosenstein, oversees the investigation. That means Mr Sessions is unlikely to be able to act on the president's demand at present.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, later said of Mr Trump's call for the Russia probe to be closed: "It's not an order, it's the president's opinion."
Mr Trump is looking to the November mid-term elections, leading a rally in Florida this week at which he brushed off criticism of his style, saying: "Anybody can act presidential." (© Daily Telegraph, London)