President Trump said Friday he’s even more convinced that special counsel Robert Mueller’s “rigged” investigation on Russia is hurting the U.S. relationship with Moscow, after watching portions of disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok’s testimony to Congress.
“After watching the man that was testifying yesterday, I’d call it the rigged witch hunt,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference in England, bemoaning that the difference in time zones prevented him from seeing much of the stormy House hearing.
As he prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki, Finland, Mr. Trump said of the special counsel’s probe, “we’re being hurt very badly by the rigged witch hunt. I think that really hurts our country.”
“It really hurts our relationship with Russia,” Mr. Trump said.
Lawmakers grilled Mr. Strzok Thursday in a hearing about text messages to his lover in the FBI that he would “stop” Mr. Trump’s election in 2016. He had been a top investigator on Mr. Mueller’s probe, but was removed after the text messages were uncovered.
Mr. Trump also said Friday that he doesn’t expect Mr. Putin to confess to meddling in the U.S. presidential election when they meet next week.
“There won’t be a ‘Perry Mason’ here, I don’t think,” the president said, referring to the old TV drama in which the guilty party often broke down and confessed under questioning in a courtroom. “I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, I did it – you got me.’ But I will absolutely, firmly ask the question.”
He said he will “go in strong” to the meeting because of the commitments he secured this week from NATO allies for greater military spending. His demands for higher defense alliance spending produced some contentious moments at the NATO summit.
The president blasted an NBC reporter, Kristen Welker, who asked Mr. Trump if he was giving Mr. Putin “the upper hand,” because Mr. Trump was “challenging these alliances that he seeks to break up?”
“That’s such dishonest reporting, because, of course it happens to be NBC, which is possibly worse than CNN,” Mr. Trump said. “Let me explain something. We have left NATO with more money, with more unity, with more spirit than NATO has probably ever had.”