Rally for thousands of diehard advocates held on same day news emerged that special attorney has set up panel to examine evidence of alleged collusion
Donald Trump has sought to rally thousands of diehard advocates against the investigation into his campaigns alleged collusion with Russia on the same day news emerged that the special counseling, Robert Mueller, has convened a grand jury in the case.
Theyre trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story, Trump told a rally in Huntington, West Virginia.
The concerted endeavor could be a sign that the White House is realising the full gravity of the situation. Mueller, appointed special attorney in May following the dismissal of the former FBI director James Comey, has recruited more than a dozen examiners, including current and former justice department prosecutors with experience in international bribery, organised crime and financial fraud.
On Thursday, it was reported first by the Wall Street Journal, but afterwards by other outlets including the Associated Press that Mueller is employing a grand jury in Washington, meaning he was able to subpoena witnesses and records in the coming weeks and months.
The use of a grand jury, industry standards prosecution tool in criminal investigations, is demonstrated that Mueller and his team of researchers are likely to hear from witnesses and demand documents in the next week and months.
In what might be seen as a bid to weaponise his populist base, Trump told the crowd in Huntington, a coal country stronghold where he beat Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points: Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didnt win because of Russia. We won because of you.
The crowd, many with Make America great again hats or signs, erupted in vociferous cheers. Trump continued: We won because we wholly outworked the other side. We won because of millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country.
The president asked mockingly: Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians? They cant beat us at the voting kiosks so theyre are seeking to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. Theyre trying to defraud you out of the leadership that you want with a fake narrative that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.
Trumps rhetoric at a 9,000 -person capacity arena on Thursday echoed rallies during the election campaign where he claimed the system was rigged against him. This time he appeared to be scattering seeds of doubt about the investigations by Mueller and two congressional committees into whether there was collusion between Russia and Trumps presidential campaign.
I simply hope the final determination is a genuinely honest one, which is what the millions of people who gave us our big win in November deserve and what all Americans who want a better future want and deserve, the president added ominously.
Democrat lawmakers will have to decide. They can continue their preoccupation with the Russian hoax or they can serve the interests of the American people. Try winning at the voter booth. Not going to be easy, but thats the way youre supposed to do it.
Trump spared the media his usual broadsides and instead focused on the Democrats, whom he claimed were trying to find an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. Prosecutors should be go looking for former secretary of state Hillary Clintons 33,000 emails, he added, prompting thunderous cheers and chants of Lock her up! some nine months after the election.
The prolonged refusal of links to Moscow signalled a shift in strategy for Trump, who rarely dwells on the issue during rallies, where few supporters seem concerned. His daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, also brought it up during a short speech, calling it a crazy tale about Russia. And the West Virginia governor Jim Justice, announcing his defection from the Democrat to the Republican, told the crowd: Have we not heard enough about the Russians? I mean, to our God in heaven, think about it: the stock markets at 22,000 and this country has hope and were on our way.