President Donald Trump on Wednesday described former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s upcoming testimony before two Democratic-led House panels as merely part of a phony probe that “never ends.”
The House Judiciary and Intelligence committees announced Tuesday night that the former FBI director will testify during a joint July 17 hearing in what will be one of the biggest moments in Washington in some time.
“My reaction is it never ends. We had no obstruction … no collusion,” he told Fox Business. “It’s hard to have obstruction when you have no crime.”
Trump repeated that claim even though Mueller, in his final report, said there was evidence of obstruction of justice but he lacked the authority to recommend indicting a sitting president due to decades-old Justice Department guidelines.
Mueller found no criminal-level coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, but he did not exonerate the president on obstruction — and a growing list of House Democrats want to start impeach proceedings as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California continues trying to hold them off.
The president, who will hold trade talks at a G-20 summit in Japan later this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, signaled a final pact on trade with China is unlikely by the time he heads to South Korea for the second half of his Asia swing.
“It’s possible we’ll make a deal, but I’m also happy where we are. We’re taking in a fortune,” he said of tariffs he slapped on over $200 billion worth of goods made in China. “We have to get a good deal.”
He repeated his claim that many companies are moving production operations out of China due to his tariffs on goods made there. But, as always, he did not name any.
Trump is scheduled to leave the White House to start his trip to the G-20 in Japan then to South Korea for talks about North Korea’s nuclear program around 12:40 p.m. EDT.
The president dismissed a Fox Business anchor’s contention that his tariffs are hurting the U.S economy and sidestepped her question about whether he actually believes Xi will agree to make it law in his country that China cannot, as the White House contends, steal U.S. companies’ intellectual properties.
Trump indicated his long-threatened additional tariffs on around $300 billion in Chinese goods could be implemented at a 10 percent rate — not the 25 percent rate he has floated before.
Without explaining why, he also predicted his proposed trade pact with Canada and Mexico will pass this year.
An animated Trump pressed the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates and said he has the power to “fire” Chairman Jerome Powell.
“He has to lower interest rates for us to compete with China,” Trump said, perhaps the most blunt call he has made for Powell to make such a move yet.
The president again blamed Powell and the central bank, which has raised rates during his presidency, for slowing economic growth. Trump and his campaign team want to make the healthy U.S. economy a top 2020 re-election issue, and he views lower interest rates as the key to speeding economic growth.
Without mentioning lower rates, Lawerence Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he thinks economic growth above 3 percent is still possible — even as some economists warn of a possible recession before Election Day 2020.
Echoing other conservatives’ complaints that big technology companies are censoring them, the president declared: “We should be suing Google and Facebook and Apple. And perhaps we will.”
“They’re trying to rig the election,” he said without providing supporting data.
Asked if he will watch the first Democratic primary debates scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Miami, Trump said he will be “on a plane” heading to Japan. But he took a swipe at the frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, calling him a “lost soul.” But he didn’t explain why he views the former Delaware senator that way.
Asked if war with Iran is inevitable a day after he admitted to CQ Roll Call he lacks an exit strategy if a shooting war starts, the commander in chief said he would not deploy American ground troops on Iranian soil.
“I hope we don’t. But we’re in a very strong position. It wouldn’t last very long. I’m not talking about boots on the ground,” he told Fox in an intense exchange. “It wouldn’t last very long.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday called the Trump White House “mentally retarded,” causing Trump to warn him of “obliteration.”
“I don’t think they have smart leadership,” the U.S. leader said, criticizing Rouhani because his people “can’t eat.”
As the wild and wide-ranging interview passed the 45-minute mark, Trump dismissed a Wall Street Journal opinion piece calling on him to put former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as his 2020 running mate. He again said Vice President Mike Pence will “100 percent” be his running mate for a second time.