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Trump takes aim at Robert Mueller, lashing out at Russia probe

President Trump made new accusations on social media Monday that the probe into ties between his campaign and Russia is a "witch hunt," directly criticizing the special counsel. Lawmakers in both parties have warned Trump not to fire Robert Mueller, warning of a dire crisis for his presidency. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    After months of refraining from direct criticism of the special counsel who is investigating his campaign, President Trump now seems to be dropping that approach.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage on the latest attacks coming from the White House.

  • Question:

    Mr. President, should Mueller be fired?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Leaving for New Hampshire today, President Trump ignored shouted questions about special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

    It was a sharp contrast to days of attacking Mueller on social media, including a tweet this morning declaring the probe a total witch-hunt.

    Then, this afternoon, The New York Times reported the president has hired lawyer Joseph E. diGenova, who has said the FBI and Justice Department tried to frame Mr. Trump.

  • Joseph diGenova:

    With a falsely created crime.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meanwhile, lawmakers in both parties warned the president- Don't fire special counsel Mueller.

    Republican Senator and sometime Trump ally Lindsey Graham-

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham:

    If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we're a rule of law nation.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee-

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    This would undoubtedly result in a constitutional crisis, and I think Democrats and Republicans need to speak out about this right now.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And Republican Trey Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight Committee-

  • Rep. Trey Gowdy:

    Let it play out its course, if you have done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    To quell the furor, late last night, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement that the president is not considering firing Mueller. And White House Legislative Director Marc Short insisted Mr. Trump is frustrated about a probe he sees as wasteful, but remains compliant.

  • Marc Short:

    We have cooperated in every single way, every single paper they have asked for, every single interview.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This flurry of reaction came after The New York Times reported Thursday that Mueller has subpoenaed business documents from the Trump Organization, something Mr. Trump had called a red line last year.

    By Sunday, the president was attacking Mueller by name for the first time, accusing his team of being stacked with "13 hardened Democrats, some big crooked Hillary supporters and zero Republicans."

    In fact, Robert Mueller himself is a longtime registered Republican. He was appointed FBI director by Republican President George W. Bush. Mr. Trump is partially correct. According to The Washington Post, 13 of Mueller's 17 staff lawyers have at one time registered as Democrats. Six of the 17 donated to former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen:

    Cruel, un-American and mean-spirited.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In a related story, today on the House floor, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee criticized the Justice Department's Friday firing of Andrew McCabe two days before he was set to retire.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen:

    It was a shot across the bow at other government officials who are doing their jobs- Justice Department officials, FBI officials, law enforcement officials who love this country and put their lives on the line.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he fired McCabe on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials for leaking to the press and not being candid with investigators looking into the matter.

    The president saw McCabe as a biased foe and declared his dismissal a great day for democracy.

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy defended McCabe's firing on Saturday.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy:

    I know a lot of Democrats are trying to make this a political problem, but it's not.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Media reports now say McCabe kept notes on his conversations with President Trump, and has turned them over to special counsel Mueller.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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