President Donald Trump defended his retweet of a meme depicting his political opponents behind the bars of a prison cell, doubling down by specifically singling one person out as deserving to go to jail due to his support of and role within the Russia investigation.
In an interview with the New York Post, Trump laid out his defense for retweeting the meme on Wednesday, which was shared by the fan account @The_Trump_Train. The meme depicted several Trump detractors in prison, as well as individuals involved in the Russia inquiry, including special counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The Post asked Trump specifically about Rosenstein’s inclusion in the meme, and whether Trump truly believed he was deserving of a prison sentence.
“Why do you think [Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein] belongs behind bars?” the Post asked the president.
Trump made clear that it was because of his role in selecting Mueller to lead the Russia inquiry. “He should have never picked a special counsel,” the president responded.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller, who himself once ran the FBI, as a special counsel to continue the FBI investigation into Russia meddling in U.S. elections after President Donald Trump fired Comey in May 2017.
Typically, the attorney general is the one to make such an appointment; however, Trump’s then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from all work involved in the Russia investigation, due to his own interactions with Russian diplomats that occurred during the 2016 presidential election.
That investigation has since looked into possible collusion efforts made by members of Trump’s campaign staff with foreign agents who have ties with the government of Russia to determine if any illegal activities between the two occurred.
Trump has frequently touted the Mueller-led probe as a “witch hunt.” In spite of characterizing the investigation in this way, Mueller’s inquiry has netted several indictments, including a few guilty pleas from members of Trump’s inner circle, according to Vox. Many of those who pleaded guilty have agreed to cooperate with the special counsel in exchange for lesser charges and sentencing.
Trump’s comments in the New York Post interview are unusual for a sitting president to make. Indeed, some have suggested that many of the president’s more outlandish comments against the special counsel and the investigation itself may constitute an act of obstruction of justice, a crime which is an impeachable offense, according to reporting from the Hill.