President Donald Trump alleged Tuesday - without providing any evidence - that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation will meddle in the midterm elections to benefit Democrats.
Trump's claim is his latest attack on the credibility of the Russia investigation as being politically motivated, though it's a significant new step in his attacks on what is intended to be an independent probe working to get to the bottom of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
"The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls," Trump tweeted. "There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!"
Trump's use of the word "rigged" invokes a line he frequently employed in 2016 -- often when he was trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls -- to raise doubts about the election outcome. At the time, he appeared to be suggesting that the election would be out of the hands of voters.
Although CNN has reported that several members of Mueller's team have donated to Democrats, Russia's meddling in the 2016 election has also been the subject of several Republican-led congressional inquiries. Mueller is a Republican who was appointed as FBI director by President George W. Bush, and the man who appointed him as special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was appointed by Trump and is also a registered Republican.
Tuesday's conspiracy theory was accompanied by a barrage of Trump tweets on the Russia probe, which repeated his previous requests for investigations into his political enemies.
"Why aren't the 13 Angry and heavily conflicted Democrats investigating the totally Crooked Campaign of totally Crooked Hillary Clinton. It's a Rigged Witch Hunt, that's why! Ask them if they enjoyed her after election celebration," Trump tweeted.
Another tweet read: "Sorry, I've got to start focusing my energy on North Korea Nuclear, bad Trade Deals, VA Choice, the Economy, rebuilding the Military, and so much more, and not on the Rigged Russia Witch Hunt that should be investigating Clinton/Russia/FBI/(Department of) Justice/(President Barack) Obama/(former FBI Director James) Comey/(Former Attorney General Loretta) Lynch etc."
In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani called the Mueller probe "illegitimate" and acknowledged that a political strategy to discredit the investigation was part of an effort to sway public opinion to Trump's side in case he faces impeachment.
"They are giving us the material to do it," Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash. "Of course, we have to do it in defending the President. We are defending -- to a large extent, remember, Dana, we are defending here, it is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach."
Trump himself has escalated his attacks on Mueller's investigation in recent weeks. Last week, he demanded the Justice Department look into whether the Obama administration planted a "spy" in his campaign, although US officials have told CNN that the confidential source was not planted inside the campaign.
The Justice Department responded to Trump's demand by asking its inspector general to look into the matter.