WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Friday that he is under federal investigation as part of the expanding investigation into Russia's election meddling. He lashed out at a top Justice Department official overseeing the inquiry, reflecting his mounting frustration with the unrelenting controversy that has consumed his early presidency.
"I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt," the president wrote on Twitter.
His morning missive apparently referred to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general whose role leading the federal investigation has become increasingly complicated. The White House has used a memo he wrote to justify Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey, but that Trump action may now be part of the inquiry. Thursday night, Rosenstein issued an unusual statement complaining about leaks in the case.
Trump advisers and confidants describe the president as increasingly angry over the investigation, yelling at television sets in the White House carrying coverage and insisting he is the target of a conspiracy to discredit — and potentially end — his presidency.
Some of his ire is aimed at Rosenstein and investigative special counsel Robert Mueller, both of whom the president believes are biased against him, associates say.
Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she was "increasingly concerned" that Trump will fire both Mueller and Rosenstein.
"The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn't apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired," Feinstein said. "That's undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president's oath of office."
Aides have counseled the president to stay off Twitter and focus on other aspects of his job. They have tried to highlight the positive reviews that he received Wednesday when he made a statesman-like appearance in the White House to address the nation after Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot during a congressional baseball practice.
Yet Trump's angry tweets on Friday underscored the near-impossible challenge his advisers and legal team have in trying to get him to avoid weighing in on an active investigation.
The tweets came shortly after Rosenstein issued his unusual statement that appeared to be warning about the accuracy of such reports.
"Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations," Rosenstein said. "The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations."
Trump has told associates he has the legal authority to fire Mueller, though some in the White House have preached caution, fearing a repeat of the firestorm over Comey's firing.
Several White House officials and Trump associates insisted on anonymity from the Associated Press in order to discuss the president's views of the unfolding investigation.