Trump signals Mueller cooperation fading

US President Donald Trump has attacked the team in the Russian investigation in a series of tweets.US President Donald Trump is signalling a more confrontational legal strategy against Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, dismissing it as an investigation into a “made up, phony crime”.

The cooperative approach in dealing with special counsel Mueller’s investigation, as had been advocated by Trump’s legal team for months, appears to have gone by the wayside judging by a series of almost a dozen tweets from Trump.

The tweets also reveal Trump’s anxiety about how the Russia probe could sway voters as they decide whether to keep congressional Republicans in power or force him to face an aggressive Democratic majority.

Trump’s new lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, has used a string of media appearances to cast the probe as a “totally garbage investigation”.

Giuliani has also questioned whether Trump would be treated fairly by Mueller’s prosecutors if he were to agree to an interview.

No decision has been made on whether Trump will be interviewed, but a person familiar with the situation said the legal team hopes to resolve that by May 17, which marks one year since Mueller’s appointment.

Mueller’s team is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible coordination with Trump associates as well as whether the president obstructed justice. So far, the special counsel’s office has charged 19 people – including four Trump campaign advisers – and three Russian companies.

On Monday, Trump seized on Giuliani’s message, focusing on what he sees as the conflicts of interest on Mueller’s team.

“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ’till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” he wrote.

Trump appeared to be drawing attention to a federal judge’s questioning last week of Mueller’s authority in a case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But it was unclear what legal action Trump was referring to that would touch on “unrevealed” conflicts of interest.

Mueller is a longtime Republican, but some members of his team have made political contributions to Democrats, including to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.

Mueller could not have barred them from serving on the team based solely on their political contributions. Federal regulations and Justice Department policy prohibit the consideration of political affiliation in hiring and other personnel actions involving career attorneys.

Mueller’s investigation has operated largely in secrecy with the public only getting glimpses into its operation through witnesses who are questioned or when indictments and guilty pleas are publicly unsealed.

It’s unclear when the investigation will conclude, a fact that Trump seized on as he worried that it could affect Republican chances in the November midterm elections.

“Is this Phony Witch Hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what the Democrats always intended?” Trump tweeted. “Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late.”