Trump says "Mueller should have never been chosen" as special counsel

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Trump: "Mueller should have never been chosen"

Just one day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced his resignation from the Department of Justice and the formal closing of the Russia probe, President Trump slammed the longtime DOJ official, saying he "should have never been chosen" to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"I think he's totally conflicted," Mr. Trump claimed while leaving the White House for Colorado on Thursday. "He loves [James] Comey. You look at the relationship of those two. So whether it's love or deep like, he was conflicted. Robert Mueller should never have been chosen because he wanted the FBI job and he didn't get it and the next day he was picked as special counsel…plus we had a business dispute."

The president later claimed Mueller was part of the "Never Trump" movement of Republicans in 2016 and lambasted him for not investigating former FBI Director Comey as well as former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe.

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His comments come after Mueller, in his first public statement about his Russia probe, did not explicitly exonerate the president from wrongdoing related to the nearly two-year long investigation, and instead explained why his office never considered indicting him for obstruction of justice.

In response to Mueller's statement, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that "nothing changes from the Mueller Report."

"There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you," Mr. Trump wrote. He repeated those claims on the South Lawn.

"It was the same as the report. Not much changed. No obstruction, no collusion, no nothing. It's nothing but a witch hunt. It keeps going. It was the same as the report," the president remarked.

Mr. Trump also made remarks for the first time since tweeting that he "was not informed about anything having to do with" the USS John McCain after officers were told to keep a warship out of Mr. Trump's view during his Memorial Day weekend visit to Japan. The late Senator McCain has been a frequent political target of Mr. Trump, with the president often citing McCain's "no" vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act as a sticking point early in Mr. Trump's time in office.

CBS News' David Martin confirmed that an email requesting the warship be moved out of sight for the president's visit to Yokosuka Naval Base this weekend was authentic. The request came from the White House.

The president again denied those reports, saying firmly that he was "not involved" in the decision-making process.

"I would not have done that. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way shape or form. To me John McCain, I wasn't a fan. But I would never do a thing like that. Now, someone did it because they thought I didn't like him. They were well-meaning, I will say. But I wouldn't have," Mr. Trump said. He added that he knew "nothing about" the decision to move the ship.

On his way to Singapore, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said, "I never authorized, I never approved any action around the movement or activity regarding that ship. Furthermore, I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain." He added that his chief of staff would look into the matter.

First published on May 30, 2019 / 8:12 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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