US President Donald Trump stepped up his offensive Friday against Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, declaring it "totally discredited" following the release of a watchdog report documenting failings by the FBI.
Trump claimed the report "exonerates" him from allegations of collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice -- though it made no mention of either -- while his lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Mueller and his team themselves should be investigated.
"The report yesterday may be more important than anything. It totally exonerates me," Trump told journalists in front of the White House.
"There was no collusion, there was no obstruction, and if you read the report... what you'll really see is bias against me," he said, adding that the investigation is a "ridiculous witch hunt."
Trump's claim came even as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, facing charges of money laundering and tax evasion, was jailed by a Virginia judge after Mueller's team showed the court evidence of witness tampering.
Bias in the FBI?
The long-awaited report released Thursday by the Justice Department's inspector general faulted the FBI and its former director James Comey over the handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe in 2016.
It said Comey was insubordinate and guilty of bad judgement, and also showed several agents involved in the investigation repeatedly expressing anti-Trump bias in private text messages.
But the 568-page report found no bias in the investigation itself, or in the ultimate decision announced by Comey not to prosecute Clinton for mishandling classified materials.
The report made little mention of Mueller or the Russia collusion probe, which were not in the scope of the inspector general's review.
But with Mueller possibly accumulating evidence that Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation -- which would be an impeachable offense -- and Comey possibly a witness to that, the president took advantage to paint the Mueller team as deeply tainted.
"That is probably the tip of the iceberg," he said of the IG report. "There was total bias, I mean total bias."
He referred to Comey, whom he fired in May 2017, and other senior FBI officials as "the scum at the top" of the bureau and as "total thieves.
The investigation led by Mueller, himself a former FBI director, "has massive conflicts," Trump said.
"I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited."
While Trump's claims of exoneration were not supported, the report gave him fresh ammunition in a political fight gaining steam ahead of the November congressional elections.
Mueller, who has already issued indictments of 20 individuals, is still seeking to interview Trump in the case.
It is apparent though that he is building a possible case against Trump for illegally trying to impede the investigation.
That could spark a move in Congress to impeach the president for obstruction, which would be decided in the House of Representatives.
The House is currently controlled by Republicans but Democrats have a chance to seize control in November, which would leave Trump vulnerable.
With voters set to decide the likelihood of an impeachment case, Trump's goal is to convince them that Mueller, his investigators, and potential witnesses all have "tremendous animosity" against him.
He cited the FBI agents' text messages, and especially Comey's role leading both the Clinton and initial Russia collusion investigations.
"What he (Comey) did was criminal. What he did was a terrible thing to the people. What he did was so bad in terms of our constitution, in terms of the well-being of our country," Trump said.
Speaking separately on Fox News Friday, Giuliani called the Mueller investigation corrupt.
"Let's stop it and get rid of all the agents doing the Mueller investigation... We have wasted $20 million on a corrupt investigation engineered by Comey and his goons. Now let's turn to investigate the corrupt investigators and clean up the FBI."