President Donald Trump branded special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling "an attack on our country", escalating his criticism of the yearlong investigation after federal authorities raided the offices of his personal attorney.
Agents today seized records from the offices of longtime Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, on topics including a $130,000 payment made to a porn actress who says she had sex with Trump more than a decade ago.
Hours later, flanked by the nation's top military brass, Trump unleashed his sharpest invective against the sweeping investigation to date, calling the search "a disgrace."
"It's an attack on our country in a true sense," Trump said. "It's an attack on what we all stand for." He added it marked a "whole new level of unfairness" by Mueller and his team.
Trump called the probe a "witch hunt," suggesting it was a distraction from serious issues, like the consideration of a military response to Syria's apparent use of a chemical weapon on civilians over the weekend which was a subject of his meeting with the defense secretary, the joint chiefs of staff and US combatant commanders.
Instead, Trump opened with an unprompted four-minute critique of Mueller's investigation. "I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man," Trump began, referring to the agents who had obtained search warrants from a federal judge.
The raid on Cohen's office was conducted by the US Attorney's office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, according to Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan. Cohen has been an ardent defender in Trump's business, personal and political affairs for more than a decade.
"They're not looking at the other side," he complained, referencing the long investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. "They're not looking at the Hillary Clinton horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that she committed."
Mueller, a lifelong Republican, and his team of attorneys have been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and associated misdeeds in the president's orbit since May 2017.
Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel last year after the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump said Sessions "should have certainly let us know" he would step aside in the probe and we would have "put a different attorney general."
Trump said some people have told him he should fire Mueller, but declined to say he would: "Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on we'll see what happens." Trump cannot directly fire Mueller, but could order Rosenstein or his successors to remove the special counsel.