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Trump says Mueller is ‘threatening' witnesses without citing any examples

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President Donald Trump accused Robert Mueller of "threatening" witnesses to cooperate in the probe into Russian meddling in the US presidential election, one day after the Senate's Republican leader blocked a bid to protect the special counsel's work.

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump accused Robert Mueller of "threatening" witnesses to cooperate in the probe into Russian meddling in the US presidential election, one day after the Senate's Republican leader blocked a bid to protect the special counsel's work.

"The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts," Mr Trump said on Twitter Thursday. "They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want."

Mr Trump provided no examples.

Mr Trump then launched a blistering attack on the probe, accusing Mr Mueller by name of being "highly conflicted" and saying he worked for former President Barack Obama "for 8 years." Mueller was appointed as FBI director by former President George W Bush and Mr Obama later extended his original 10-year-term by two years until 2013.

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In a two-paragraph legal filing on Wednesday, Mr Mueller offered a rare glimpse into the status of the probe and noted that former Trump presidential campaign aide Rick Gates is cooperating with prosecutors in several ongoing investigations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday blocked two senators from bringing up bipartisan legislation to protect Mr Mueller's investigation from any interference by Mr Trump. Despite the heated rhetoric, Mr Trump isn't likely to seek Mr Mueller's ouster or meddle in the probe, the lawmaker said in making the move.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Democrat Chris Coons had said they would push the measure after Mr Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and tossed out more than a century of precedent to name Mr Sessions' chief of staff Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general on Nov 7.

Mr Whitaker, a persistent critic of Mr Mueller's work, now has the power to slow or shut down an investigation that has resulted in criminal charges against Russian hackers and social-media trolls, as well as several people who worked for Mr Trump or his campaign.

Mr Flake, who is retiring at the end of this year, said he will refuse to advance any judicial nominees in the Judiciary Committee or confirm any judges on the Senate floor until the Mueller bill is brought to the floor for a vote. Mr McConnell has repeatedly said that confirming more federal judges is his top priority.

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