That tweeted interpretation was backed up in a confrontational White House press briefing in which CNN’s Jim Acosta challenged press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about a possible bid by the Trump administration to “gin up your own Russian investigation to rival the one on Capitol Hill.” He was referring to congressional investigations into possible collusion with the Kremlin by the Trump campaign as well as a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump and Sanders tried to turn the focus to Democratic presidential nominee Clinton just hours before CNN reported Friday night that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., had issued the first charges in the investigation led by Mueller into Russian interference in the election. No details were available late Friday.
Trump began his version of events with a tweet complaining about the “costly looking” into the issue, concluding there was “NO collusion between Russia and Trump,” but there was “collusion with HC!”
He followed up with a tweet linking to a Fox News piece by anchor Chris Wallace insisting there was more evidence of collusion between the Democrats and the Russians than there was between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, despite known meetings between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s son Donald Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner with people linked to the Kremlin during the campaign.
Later in the day, when asked about Trump’s tweet, Sanders insisted: “I think we are seeing now that if there was any collusion with Russia, it was between the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and the Clintons, and certainly not our campaign.”
She added: “Congress has spent a great deal of time on this. All of your news organizations have probably spent a lot of money on this as well, which we would consider probably a pretty big waste. I think that our position hasn’t changed since day one.”
When Acosta pressed Sanders: “Where is the president’s evidence that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians?” Sanders said simply: “I think I’ve addressed that pretty thoroughly.”
Trump did not say “since day one,” as Sanders insisted, that Clinton was somehow involved in colluding with the Russians. In fact, Trump has often scoffed at evidence of Russian interference in the election at all — even though U.S. intelligence officials determined that the Kremlin attempted to sway the election in Trump’s favor via the Internet.
“I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump said after his victory. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
Accusations about Russian collusion with the Democrats arose following a report in The Washington Post this week that the DNC helped pay for a secret dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele on alleged ties between Trump and Russia during the presidential campaign. But the Post reported Friday that the conservative publication The Washington Free Beacon has now said that it was the first to fund research by a Washington firm into Republican presidential candidates, which eventually led to the Trump dossier after the Beacon was no longer part of the project.
Trump is also again criticizing a 2010 deal approved by the Obama administration when Clinton was secretary of state concerning uranium production in the U.S. In the deal, the Russian nuclear energy agency Rosatom acquired a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Canadian company with two mining operations in Wyoming. Trump claimed, without any evidence, that the deal was made in exchange for Russian donations to the Clinton Foundation. It’s unknown if Clinton had anything to do with Obama’s decision to approve the plan.
Sanders said of the deal: “I can tell you that we do think that there’s a lot of cause for concern regarding that deal, and we certainly think it should be looked into.”
House and Senate Republican leaders have announced they’re launching two investigations into the Uranium One decision.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred to David Wallace. The Fox News anchor is named Chris Wallace.