Donald Trump launched an angry denunciation of the official probe into his election campaign’s alleged ties to Russia yesterday as it emerged the federal investigation could make its first arrest as early as Monday.
Senior Republicans also stepped up attacks on Robert Mueller, the man leading the investigation into alleged Russian attempts to sway last year’s American election, criticising leaks and demanding he step aside.
US media reported that the first arrests from Mr Mueller’s investigation - possibly including some of Mr Trump’s senior former advisers - could come on Monday after a grand jury approved its first Russia-related indictment on Friday.
The revelation sparked a weekend of feverish speculation about who would be indicted as well as frantic Republican efforts to discredit the investigation.
In a furious and defensive barrage of tweets on Sunday morning, Mr Trump dismissed the allegations as “phony” and the investigation as a “witch hunt”, complaining that allegations against Hillary Clinton had not been examined in the same detail.
Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?),....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017
...the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia,....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017
..."collusion," which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017
...are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2017
In particular he highlighted her campaign’s role in funding research that produced a controversial dossier – compiled by a former MI6 spy – detailing unsubstantiated claims against him and an Obama administration nuclear deal with Russia.
The furious Republican response gives a sense of the potential impact of Mr Mueller’s investigation into a controversy that stretches to the upper reaches of the Trump administration.
The special counsel’s team has interviewed a string of former White House figures including Reince Priebus, who served as chief of staff, and Sean Spicer, who resigned as press secretary during the summer.
In July, FBI agents raided the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, whose previous work for a pro-Moscow political party in Ukraine as well as his real estate dealings are being investigated by Mr Mueller’s team.
Mr Manafort served as campaign chairman for about two months last year before leaving amid campaign chaos and growing questions about foreign payments during his time as a lobbyist. He has reportedly told confidants that he expects to face charges.
Mr Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department in May to head the investigation after Mr Trump fired James Comey as director of the FBI.
He has assembled a powerful team of forensic investigators with experience in prosecuting white collar crimes as he probes Russian meddling and any possible collusion between the Trump campaign team and Moscow.
But Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and a Trump supporter, said frequent leaks risked undermining its credibility.
“I think for us to have confidence in this process we’ve got to make sure the grand jury remains confidential, remains secret so that special counsel can work effectively to be able to get to the bottom of all he’s looking into,” he said.
Others questioned Mr Mueller’s independence and demanded his removal.
Sebastian Gorka, who appears frequently on conservative media since being ousted as a White House adviser, wrote on Twitter: “If this man's team executes warrants this weekend he should stripped of his authority by @realDonaldTrump. Then HE should be investigated.”
As well as calling for the special counsel’s removal, Trump loyalists spent the weekend fanning a distraction campaign.
They accused the Obama administration of colluding with Moscow in a deal that gave Russia control of 20 percent of US uranium supply.
The issue was taken up by Roger Stone, one of Mr Trump’s most outspoken allies, in a foul-mouthed tirade directed at CNN and New York Times journalists. His Twitter account was later suspended.