President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused special counsel Robert Mueller of committing a crime, citing his own previously discredited claim during a rambling television rant responding to House Democrats’ announcement that Mueller will testify in public next month.
In a 45-minute phone interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, Trump said without evidence that Mueller illegally deleted messages between former FBI staffers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who have faced scrutiny for exchanging text messages critical of Trump. Trump, calling them “the two pathetic lovers” because they had an extramarital affair, claimed Mueller “terminated all of the stuff between Strzok and Page.”
“Here’s the problem, Robert Mueller, they worked for him, and the two lovers were together, and they had texts back and forth, emails back and forth,” Trump told Bartiromo. “Mueller terminated them illegally. He terminated the emails. He terminated all of the stuff between Strzok and Page. You know, they sung like you’ve never seen. Robert Mueller terminated their text messages together. He terminated them. They’re gone. And that’s illegal. That’s a crime.”
Trump floated the theory in December that the messages “were purposely & illegally deleted.” PolitiFact concluded at the time that there was no evidence supporting the president’s statement and rated it “Pants on Fire.”
With his 2020 reelection campaign underway, Trump is eager to bury Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and evidence the president sought to obstruct it. But next month’s congressional hearing featuring Mueller will likely command live TV coverage and provide abundant opportunities for Democrats to spotlight the president’s sketchy behavior.
Trump on Wednesday repeated his false claim that Mueller’s findings exonerated him ― a claim likely to be called into question when Mueller testifies.
“It never ends. We had no obstruction, no collusion,” Trump told Bartiromo. “It’s hard to have obstruction when you have no crime ... You didn’t have crime. You had crime on the other side.”
Trump, who has been stonewalling Democratic investigations into his administration and complaining about “presidential harassment,” also repeated his long-running and baseless accusation that “you had people spying on my campaign.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray has pushed back on that assertion, saying that he “personally” knew of no evidence suggesting that government officials illegally surveilled Trump’s campaign.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.