Trump declares "Russia hoax" dead at first "Make America Great Again" rally since Mueller summary

"This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory," Trump tells supporters

Published March 29, 2019 11:12AM (EDT)

Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Thursday, March 28, 2019. (AP/Paul Sancya)
Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Thursday, March 28, 2019. (AP/Paul Sancya)

President Donald Trump, who has appeared to be taking a victory lap in the days after special counsel Robert Mueller announced the completion of his investigation into possible collusion between the president's campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, railed against the Democrats, the so-called liberal "elites" and the media in his first campaign rally since the release of the Mueller summary by Attorney General William Barr.

"After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over," Trump declared Thursday at the fiery "Make America Great Again" event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "The special counsel completed its report and found no collusion and no obstruction . . . Total exoneration, complete vindication."

"This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people," the president added. He then called the special counsel's investigation "an elaborate hoax" and claimed the "Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally gain power by framing innocent Americans, many of them, they suffered."

The president's colorful comments come less than a week after the special counsel submitted the report of his nearly two-year probe into the president's campaign and foreign election interference. Barr on Sunday submitted a four-page summary of Mueller's report to Congress, in which he indicated that the special counsel had not found evidence of criminal collusion or conspiracy between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia during the 2016 election cycle. Barr noted that while Mueller's report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." Still, Trump has appeared to celebrate Barr's letter, claiming it was a "total and complete exoneration."

Trump appeared to still be in a celebratory mood Thursday, stating that Mueller had cleared him of any collusion with Russia. He excoriated "Crooked Hillary Clinton, the DNC" and Democrats, who had hoped Mueller's report would bolster their ongoing and wide-ranging investigations into the president and his business dealings.

"The Democrats now have to decide if they will continue to defraud the American public with this ridiculous bullsh*t or whether they will apologize to the American people," Trump said in Michigan.

"Many, many people were badly hurt by this scam, but, more importantly, our country was hurt," the president added. He claimed that, following the completion of Mueller's politically-fraught investigation, his political opponents were on "artificial respirators right now. They're getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."

Trump then took a swipe at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the president's most outspoken critics who suggested in recent months there was compelling evidence of collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. White House officials and top Republicans in recent days have called on Schiff to resign his chairmanship over his past remarks, while Trump said the California Democrat should resign from Congress completely.

"Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff. He's got the smallest, thinnest neck I've ever seen. He is not a long ball hitter," he said. "But I saw him today, 'Well, we don't really know. There could still have been some Russia collusion.' Sick! Sick! These are sick people!"

"Jerry Nadler," Trump said, invoking the name of the House Judiciary chairman, who has openly challenged Barr's conclusion regarding evidence of obstruction of justice. "I've been fighting him for many years. He was the congressman from Manhattan. I built great things in Manhattan. I had to beat him many times, and now I have to come here and beat him again." (Nadler has represented New York's 10th Congressional District, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, in the House of Representatives since 1992. He was reelected to his 13th term in 2016.)

"These people are sick. Sick!" Trump continued. "All of the Democrat politicians, the media bosses — bad people — the crooked journalists, the totally dishonest TV pundits . . . and all the current and former officials who paid for, promoted and perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics in our country. They have to be — I am sorry, they have to be accountable."

Democrats have dismissed Barr's summary of Mueller's report, arguing it is incomplete and insufficient. They have zeroed in on Mueller's decision to punt on whether Trump had obstructed justice, which Barr said "leaves it to the attorney general to determine." Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded Mueller's findings were "not sufficient to establish that the president had committed an obstruction-of-justice offense," which Democrats claim warrants further examination and the release of the full report.

Congressional Democrats have demanded Barr release Mueller's full report. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee, both tried to follow in the footsteps of the House of Representatives and unanimously pass a non-binding resolution expressing that Congress wants the special counsel's full report to be made public this week. Their efforts were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said Barr is currently working with Mueller to determine what information from his report can be released publicly.

Six Democratic committee chairs in the House sent a letter to Barr earlier this week requesting that he provide an unredacted copy of Mueller's full report to Congress by April 2. In the three-page letter, the lawmakers wrote that Barr's summary of Mueller's findings "is not sufficient for Congress."

Barr is not required by the regulations governing the special counsel to notify Congress of more than "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them." It remains unclear what other findings Barr will release, although he has previously pledged to make as many of Mueller's findings public as possible. Barr has not committed to releasing the special counsel's complete and unredacted report — and anything short of it is unlikely to be enough for the Democrats, who have vowed to subpoena Mueller and Barr if needed to push for full disclosure. Barr plans to issue a public version of Mueller's report within "weeks, not months," a Justice Department official said Tuesday, suggesting the attorney general will miss the April 2 deadline set by Democrats.

Trump also took aim at those he considers the liberal "elites," proclaiming that he and his supporters and himself are the real elite.

"I have a better education than them. I'm smarter than them. I went to the best schools. They didn't," he said. "Much more beautiful house, much more beautiful apartment, much more beautiful everything. And I'm president, and they're not."

"I get a kick. I hear, 'So and so, the elite.' Then you see this guy like this little schlepper. 'This is elite? I'm not elite?'" Trump continued. "We're the elite. You're smarter. You're sharper. You're more loyal."

Trump made similar remarks at a campaign rally last year.

"We got more money. We got more brains. We got better houses and apartments. We got nicer boats. We're smarter than they are, and they say they're the elite," the president said June 2018 at an event in North Dakota. "You're the elite. We're the elite."

Trump, at the time, declared his supporters should be called the "super elite."

By Shira Tarlo

MORE FROM Shira Tarlo