WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump assailed reports of an obstruction of justice investigation into his conduct Thursday, calling allegations of collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia a “phony story.”
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Trump tweeted early Thursday morning.
The tweets came the morning after the Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to interfere with the FBI’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Later he told his twitter followers “you are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Mueller, who is leading the FBI’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, has requested interviews with three current or former senior intelligence officials. The special counsel is also seeking documents from the National Security Agency relating to the intelligence agency’s interactions with the White House on the Russia investigation.
The president’s tweets in response to revelations of an expanded Russia inquiry came the same day that CNN filed a lawsuit against the FBI in an effort to get a hold of memos fired FBI director James Comey wrote about his conversations with President Trump.
Comey revealed last week under oath before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he provided the contents of one of the memos detailing his Feb. 14 meeting with the president to a friend, believed to be Columbia University professor Daniel Richman, who read parts of it to a New York Times reporter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the president told Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey had also said hoped releasing the memo would lead to the appointment of a special counsel, and indicated he had turned over detailed contemporaneous memos about his conversations with the president to the special counsel.
CNN producer Greg Wallace had asked the FBI for the memos on May 16, some of which Comey had said last week were unclassified.
According to the June 15 complaint, the agency granted a request for expedited processing after appeal but Wallace claims the FBI has since failed to respond within the timeframe the law allows. According to the 8-page lawsuit, Wallace’s appeal of the FBI’s initial denial for expedited processing argued that there “is a ‘great urgency’ in release of the Comey memos ‘which pertain[ ] directly to possible questions about the government’s integrity affecting public confidence in the Presidency and the Executive Branch.”
The complaint says that on June 12, the agency informed Wallace it was searching the FBI’s indices for the memos.
“The urgency and national public importance in release of the Comey memos is unquestionable,” the lawsuit argues. “It is inconceivable that locating and producing the small number of Comey memos, particularly given their prominence in current public debate, requires any significant amount of the FBI’s time or resources.”
CNN is asking the court to issue an injunction directing the FBI to immediately process its request and release the memos.
The revelation that special counsel Mueller is examining whether Trump obstructed justice came just one week after Comey confirmed that he had privately assured the president – beginning in January – that he was not personally under investigation.
But according to the Washington Post report, that may have changed not long after the president fired Comey on May 9.
Comey had declined to say under oath whether he believed private conversations with the president, in which Comey claims Trump urged him to halt the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, constitute obstruction of justice.
Trump had fired Flynn in February after news reports revealed that he had lied about conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, during which the two reportedly discussed the lifting of sanctions under the new administration.
Comey did however testify that he believed Mueller would make a determination about whether the president obstructed justice.
Comey’s accounts of his conversations with Trump, which the president has vociferously denied, could serve as key evidence if Mueller moves forward with an obstruction case.
In the meantime, National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats, National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers and his recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, are among those who officials that spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity said had agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators about whether Trump tried to influence the Russia probe.
A number of news organizations previously reported that the president had asked both Coats and Rogers to publicly deny allegations of collusion with Moscow, while Ledgett reportedly wrote an internal NSA memo about a phone conversation Rogers had with Trump.
Interviews with the intelligence officials could happen before the week expires, according to the Washington Post.
A representative of the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.