Donald Trump says attorney general Jeff Sessions must end ‘rigged’ Russia investigation

Donald Trump has called on his attorney general Jeff Sessions to end the Russian election meddling investigation, once again ramping up the rhetoric on the probe overshadowing his presidency. 

The US president also distanced himself from Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman on trial for bank fraud and tax evasion, noting they only worked together for a “very short time”. 

The early morning tweets came with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign once again in the headlines. 

Mr Manafort appeared in court on Tuesday – the first time someone indicted by the Mueller probe has stood trial. It is being seen as a key early test for the investigation. 

Mr Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation after Mr Trump fired James Comey as FBI director in May 2017.

The FBI had been probing the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia since before the election. 

Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday:

He also wrote: 

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said of Mr Trump’s call for the Russia probe to be closed: “It’s not an order, it’s the president’s opinion.”

"The president’s not obstructing, he’s fighting back," said Sanders, dismissing the idea Mr Trump’s tweets could be tantamount to obstruction of justice.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, also stressed Mr Trump was just issuing an opinion, though he also said the White House believed "the investigation should be brought to a close."

"I guess, if we were playing poker – we’re not – put up or shut up, what do you got?" Mr Giuliani said. "We have every reason to believe they don’t have anything."

Mr Trump later suggested that Mr Manafort was being “treated worse” than Al Capone, the Mafia boss, despite not yet being convicted of a crime. Mr Manafort has been in jail ahead of the trial for alleged witness tampering. 

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Capone, one of America’s most notorious mobsters, was eventually brought down through a successful prosecution for tax evasion in 1931. 

Mr Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe, meaning his number two, Rod Rosenstein, oversees the investigation. That means Mr Sessions is unlikely to be able to act on the president’s demand at present. 

The pair, close during the election campaign, have fallen out spectacularly over Mr Sessions’s decision to wash his hands of the Russia inquiry – to the fury of the president. 

Mr Trump is increasingly turning his mind to the November 2018 mid-term elections, which will see all members of the House of Representatives and some US senators face the voters. 

On Tuesday evening, Mr Trump led a rally in Florida and brushed off criticism of his leadership style, saying: “Anybody can act presidential.” 

He said he liked to “be a little wild, have a little fun” during rallies, adding that it is “a lot easier to act presidential than do what I do”. 

Mr Trump later shared a video of the hostile heckling on his Twitter feed. 

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