Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Thursday again stood up for Moscow despite the conclusions of US intelligence chiefs that Russia continues to meddle in the US political process.
Trump’s comments came minutes before public confirmation of his July 16 summit in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump said in a series of tweets in which he — as he has many times before — questioned the credibility of a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian electoral interference and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign team.
That probe is also looking at possible obstruction of justice.
“There was no collusion and there was no obstruction of the no collusion,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.
He again alleged that the Mueller probe, led by former FBI chief Mueller, is “rigged” and linked to Trump’s defeated Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
A judge in mid-June ordered Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort jailed for alleged witness tampering efforts ahead of his trial on money laundering and other charges filed by Mueller’s team.
Manafort is indicted in connection with work he did for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.
Manafort’s associate, Rick Gates, has already pleaded guilty to lying over his work as a foreign agent for Ukraine.
Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying, about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Another guilty plea came from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, who admitted to one count of lying over his contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.
Mueller has also indicted 13 Russians over a wide-ranging multi-million-dollar enterprise to interfere with and allegedly “sow discord” in the American political system using social media.
America’s leading intelligence agencies concluded last year that Putin directed a broad intelligence effort to influence the 2016 presidential election to undermine the Clinton campaign and boost Trump’s chances.
In February, US intelligence chiefs — including the leaders of the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency — said Russian attempts to meddle in US politics are continuing unabated, posing a threat to mid-term congressional elections in November.
With Republican control of Congress at stake in the November ballot, Trump has intensified his attacks on the Mueller probe and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
If Mueller finds evidence of obstruction of justice, the president could face impeachment in the House of Representatives.
Currently in Republican hands, the House would be unlikely to support an impeachment motion. But if Democrats capture control of the chamber in November, that vote could shift.