White House downplays Trump tweet on Russia probe

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE was not issuing a formal directive to 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 when he tweeted the attorney general should bring the Russia probe to an end.

"It's not an order. It's the president's opinion," Sanders told reporters during a press briefing. 

Sanders called the special counsel's probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 "ridiculous" and said the president "wants to see it come to an end."


"The president is not obstructing. He is fighting back," she added.

Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into Moscow's election meddling, and Sanders said she was unaware of Trump making similar comments to 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, who is overseeing the special counsel.

Her comments echo those make by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, who told The Washington Post the president "uses tweets to express his opinion." 

Multiple Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, pushed back on Trump's tweeted comments.

“I think it's highly inappropriate and intemperate. ...It would be far better if the president just refrained from commenting and Mr. Mueller proceeds with his investigation, which after all has already resulted in more than 30 indictments ... and has lead to a trial that is ongoing even as we speak,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Maine) told reporters.

Trump's has repeatedly denounced 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 "witch hunt" investigation, and has railed against Sessions for his recusal, publicly expressing his desire that he had selected a different attorney general.