President Donald Trump couldn’t hold back anymore.
After a weekend of thorny questions and barbed Democratic criticism surrounding ties between his campaign and Moscow, Trump took to his favorite platform Sunday to fight back.
“Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” the president tweeted.
The tweet marked a departure in tone from the Democratic trolling he had done just a day earlier, mocking the opposing party’s newly elected chairman and attempting to sow discord by speculating that the Democratic National Committee had rigged the election against Bernie Sanders’ preferred candidate.
The White House, however, would have been hard-pressed not to weigh in on the subject of Trump associates’ contacts with Russia. Republicans on Sunday faced endless questions about the ongoing investigation into Russia’s role in the presidential election — especially what role, if any, Attorney General Jeff Sessions should play in overseeing it.
In the wake of allegations that associates of President Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials prior to the election, emboldened Democrats increased their calls this weekend for an independent prosecutor to take on the case, arguing that Sessions’ role as a Trump campaign surrogate renders him incapable of handling the case impartially.
Even a vigorous Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California, joined the drumbeat Friday. “You’re right that you cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” Issa told Bill Maher on HBO. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute.”
Issa’s break with the White House suggested the swirling questions surrounding Trump’s ties to Russia were beginning to singe Republican members of Congress. The former House Oversight chairman — famous for his dogged pursuit of the Obama White House — narrowly won reelection in 2016 with Trump atop the ticket and likely faces a competitive challenge in the midterm election.
He told POLITICO in an interview Saturday that his views about transparency and accountability under Trump are simply an extension of his career-long fight for those issues.
“My view is: It’s extremely important that Congress point the guns at the same direction that they were pointed,” said Issa. Under the Trump White House, Republicans must continue to “demand what we were demanding: transparency, accountability.”
“And this is the best time to show leadership … We need to seize the opportunity and really push hard to have access so that no sacred cows are protected,” he said. “For credibility, we have to hold this president to the level of transparency that the last president took every effort to thwart.”
Issa remained an outlier among Republicans, however, in his call for a special prosecutor. Responding to calls for an independent investigation into contacts between Trump associates and Russia, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Saturday that the House would not engage in a “witch hunt…”