Politics

Former FBI Agent Thinks Putin Told Trump to End Russia Probe

President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, rejects as 'nonsense' suggestions that president's tweet is obstruction of justice

Image Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

A former FBI agent thinks she knows why President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should end the Russia probe — Vladimir Putin made him do it.

Trump provoked a ferocious reaction when he tweeted that Sessions “should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further.”

The former special agent, Asha Rangappa, said on CNN that Trump is “clearly feeling some heat,” possibly out of fear about what might come out at this week’s trial of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

She did not explain what that might be, since the trial is about alleged financial crimes predating Manafort’s brief tenure on the Trump 2016 campaign and the fact that the judge in the case has ordered prosecutors to avoid even mentioning the defendant’s ties to the president.

Beyond the trial, Rangappa said, the Russian Federation president (pictured above right) cannot be happy that independent counsel Robert Muller has indicted a slew of Russian citizens and companies in connection with 2016 election interference. She speculated that Putin might have raised those concerns with Trump at their summit last month.

“I have to wonder in that private meeting, one on one, whether he has pressure coming from another direction that we don’t know about to try to get rid of this investigation,” said Rangappa, who now is director of admissions and a senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.

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Rangappa and Harry Litman, who served as deputy assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton, both agreed on the CNN segment that Trump’s tweet was evidence of obstruction of justice.

“We know that, for example, in the travel-ban litigation, his tweets were used as evidence of what could have been his intent in promulgating that,” Rangappa said.

She did not mention, however, that the Supreme Court rejected that legal analysis and sided with the Trump administration.

Litman, meanwhile, told anchor Brooke Baldwin that he would construe Trump’s tweet as a command.

“Man, it’s a mighty thin distinction. He uses the word ‘should,’ but he says, ‘right now,’ it is ‘staining our country,’ it is a ‘rigged witch hunt.’ I think if I were in the Oval Office right now hearing the president of the United States use these words, I would take it as an order,” he said. “And by the way, order or not, it’s still solid evidence of obstruction. The big question is gonna be, is he trying to shut down the probe and why?”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, now one of Trump’s lawyers, dismissed such speculation. He said Trump was merely venting his frustration.

“He used a medium that he uses for opinions — Twitter,” he told reporters in New York. “One of the good things about using that is he’s established a clear sort of practice now, that he expresses his opinions on Twitter. He used the word ‘should.’ He didn’t use the word ‘must.’ And there was no presidential directive that followed.”

Related: Trump Calls on Sessions to End ‘Witch Hunt’ Mueller Probe

Sessions has recused himself from oversight of the Russia probe and is not even in a position to carry out the president’s wishes without first ending the recusal. Giuliani said Trump could end the investigation directly if he wanted to.

“That’s why this whole obstruction of justice thing is nonsense,” Giuliani said. “If he wanted to obstruct it, he’d obstruct it. He could just end it. Then, you’d all battle about whether he has the legal right to do that, which I think he does. But he’s not going to do that.”

After more than a year on the job, Mueller should wrap up his probe, Giuliani said.

“If we were playing poker, put up or shut up. What do you got?” he said. “We have every reason to believe they don’t have anything. The president didn’t do anything wrong.”

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