President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE's attorneys in the Russia investigation and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed on Wednesday that Trump was directing Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE to end special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's investigation in a tweet earlier in the day.
As part of a barrage of attacks on the Mueller investigation on Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that Sessions "should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further."
However, Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani argued to The Washington Post that Trump was merely expressing an opinion.
“The president has issued no order or direction to the Department of Justice on this,” Sekulow told the Post.
Giuliani pointed to Trump's use of the word "should" and added that the president "uses tweets to express his opinion."
And at Wednesday's press briefing, Sanders said the tweet was "not an order. It's the president's opinion."
Trump's call for Sessions to end the Mueller investigation marked an escalation in his long-running criticism of the special counsel.
He has periodically chastised Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the probe but had previously refrained from outright asking the attorney general to put a stop to it.
Sessions, the former Alabama senator who served as a top Trump campaign adviser, recused himself in March 2017 from the Russia probe after it was revealed he failed to disclose a conversation he had with Russia's U.S. ambassador during the 2016 race.
As a result, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE is overseeing the investigation. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, after Trump fired Comey as FBI director.
Trump's tweet comes one day after his former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE, went on trial for alleged tax, financial and bank fraud crimes, the biggest test yet for the Mueller probe.
It also adds to a growing list of tweets that Mueller is reportedly looking at as part of an investigation into whether the president obstructed justice.
Updated at 1:48 p.m.