Trump accuses Mueller of being ‘good friends’ with Comey

US president questions independence of man tasked with leading Russia investigation

US president Donald Trump has questioned the independence of special counsel Robert Mueller, accusing the man appointed to lead the Russia investigation of being “good friends” with fired FBI director James Comey.

Asked several times in an interview on Fox News whether Mr Mueller should recuse himself from the investigation Mr Trump replied, “We’ll have to see.”

While the president said he believed Mr Mueller was an “honourable man”, he also pointed out that he was friends with Mr Comey, the man controversially fired by the president last month.

“Well, he’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he’s also – we’re going to have to see,” he said.


Trump added: “I mean we’re going to have to see in terms – look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.”

Mr Mueller and Mr Comey, both former FBI directors, worked together under George W Bush when Mr Mueller headed the FBI and Mr Comey was deputy attorney general.

Mr Trump also said that the people who were hired by the special counsel’s office were “all Hillary supporters”.

Some Republicans have seized on the political profile of some of those hired by Mr Mueller, including three lawyers who previously donated to Democratic campaigns.

Tapes claim

In a separate interview on Fox News on Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refuted suggestions that the president had been trying to intimidate James Comey when the president tweeted in May that the FBI director “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press”.

Asked if the president had been trying to intimidate Mr Comey, Mr Spicer said: “No, quite the opposite. I think the president made it very clear that he wanted the truth to come out, he wanted everyone to be honest about this and he wanted to get to the bottom of it and I think he succeeded in doing that.”

He added: “The reality is that he wanted to make sure that the truth came out and by talking about something like tapes made people have to – made Comey in particular think to himself, ‘I better be honest, I better tell the truth about the circumstances regarding the situation.’”

He later said that Trump had “no intention” of firing Mr Mueller, though he retained the authority to do so.


Relations between the White House and the press continued to deteriorate on Friday as the White House communications team prohibited cameras from filming the White House press briefing.

Earlier, Mr Trump hosted the press in the East Room of the White House for a signing ceremony to mark the signing of a new bill to reform the Department of Veteran Affairs, including allowing the department to dismiss employees. “Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfil our duty to them,” Trump said during the ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, opposition to the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare continued to mount on Friday, following the publication of the Senate proposal for a new healthcare plan on Thursday. Dean Heller of Nevada became the fifth Republican senator to publicly oppose the Bill in its current form. With a majority of just two in the senate, Senate Republicans cannot afford to lose the support of more than two republicans.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell may try to bring the bill to a vote next week in the Senate. It follows the House of Representatives’ approval of a healthcare bill last month.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent