I've seen conflicting reports about whether Donald Trump is personally (i.e. not his campaign) under investigation.

The Washington Post says: "The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation" but is qualified by the usual "Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly"

Hannity Staff writers say : "Special counsel Robert Mueller has not opened any probe to determine if President Trump obstructed justice when he fired former FBI director James Comey", referring to interviews with Pierre Thomas.

Donald Trump Tweets : "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt"

So is The Washington Post playing words games in that an investigation isn't officially open but being planned? Does Donald know the the real situation or is he exaggerating?

  • 1
    Probe is being performed by Deputy Attorney General to see if a criminal investigation is necessary from my understanding. It's basically an investigation to see if a more thorough investigation is needed that might include seizure
    – SCFi
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 21:14
  • Regarding Trump's tweet, he's referring to the person "who told me to fire the FBI Director" who's likely Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. The decision to dismiss Comey is unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller. Also, special counsels usually do their work privately so unless they issue a press release or an official statement, no one'll know who they're looking into.
    – Panda
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 3:46
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    @SCFi your understanding is wrong. The special counsel would conduct any investigation not DAG.
    – Colin
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 4:24

3 Answers 3


We don't know

The only person who could really tell us what Robert Mueller is investigating is Mueller himself, and he hasn't made any official pronouncements. Until either Mueller or a spokesperson for Mueller goes on the record, we (the general public) are unlikely to know whether or not there is an investigation. And Mueller is unlikely to go public until he has concluded an investigation, if then.

There have been some factually incorrect stories based on leaks. For example, there was a story stating that James Comey would claim not to have told Donald Trump that Trump wasn't a target of the investigation in his congressional testimony. However, Comey did confirm that in his testimony.

Part of the problem is that any partisan who can reasonably claim to know Mueller could "leak" information about an investigation to the press to try to control the narrative.

Does this mean that there is not an investigation? No. We currently have zero verifiable evidence one way or the other. Mueller is keeping quiet, which is probably the best thing for any investigations that he is doing.

  • 4
    We have the statement of Comey that Mueller would doubtless look into Trump's conduct and determine whether it was obstruction of justice. We have confirmed reports that Mueller is seeking to interview top intelligence officials. So we know that Mueller is very likely looking at Trump's conduct. Whether that officially counts as an "investigation" is of secondary importance.
    – Colin
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 4:04
  • @ColinZwanziger 1) Comey is a disgruntled ex-employee - any statement by him after he was fired should be taken with a large grain of salt. His statement has not been confirmed by any official source. 2) Mueller could be talking to the top intelligence officials for many reasons, and most of those are not linked to Trump personally. So without any official confirmation, we just don't know.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 10:07

Yes, Trump was under investigation by Mueller for obstruction of justice

From the executive summary to volume II of the Mueller report (page 3 of the second volume, page 215 in the pdf):

Our obstruction-of-justice inquiry focused on a series of actions by the President that related to the Russian-interference investigations, including the President’s conduct towards the law enforcement officials overseeing the investigations and the witnesses to relevant events.

In that executive summary, the following key issues (among others) are mentioned (I mention these because they relate to the tweets in your question):

  • Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn. (on page 3 of volume 2, page 215 in the pdf)

  • The President’s termination of Comey. (on page 4 of volume 2, page 216 in the pdf)

What Trump knew

So you ask this question as well:

Does Donald know the the real situation or is he exaggerating?

It seems he did know the real situation when he fired FBI director Comey, the real situation being that he wasn't under investigation then. Again from the Mueller report, on page 36 of the second volume (page 248 in the pdf), it says in the footnotes, specifically footnote 188:

There also is evidence that corroborates other aspects of the memoranda Comey wrote documenting his interactions with the President. For example, Comey recalled, and his memoranda reflect, that he told the President in his January 6, 2017 meeting, and on phone calls on March 30 and April 11, 2017, that the FBI was not investigating the President personally. On May 8, 2017, during White House discussions about firing Comey, the President told Rosenstein and others that Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation, including once in person and twice on the phone. Gauhar-000058 (Gauhar 5/16/17 Notes).

So president Trump seems to have known at the time of firing Comey that he was not under investigation by the FBI.

  • Is an "Inquiry" an "investigation"? IANAL, but those might be different things in a legal sense.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 18:32
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    @Sjoerd the whole report was on "The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election" (literally part of the title). The word inquiry was used in the report, it means, from Cambridge Dictionary: "an official process to discover the facts about something bad that has happened". To the best of my knowledge, neither of those two have a specific alternate meaning in US law.
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 18:40
  • @JJJ So you're not a lawyer either. Any USA lawyer who can answer this?
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 18:42
  • @Sjoerd what's more interesting is that definition which states "something bad that has happened", I would image some include things that are yet to be established.
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 18:44
  • @JJJ I don't care about a UK dictionary - I case about the USA legal sense. Those words have a legal meaning in the USA, as far as I know.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 18:47
  1. Trump's tweets often describe the world as he understands them, not as they are. The list of factually incorrect tweets is long, and growing
  2. The "Trump investigation" rhetoric often gets in the way of understanding what's being done. The original investigation by the FBI was a counterintelligence investigation (which is not criminal). In other words, they were investigating Russia. But a Special Prosecutor is appointed to look at conflicts of interest

    In the United States, a special prosecutor (or special counsel or independent counsel) is a lawyer appointed to investigate and possibly prosecute a specific legal case of potential wrongdoing for which a conflict of interest exists for the usual prosecuting authority

    Trump firing Comey was an apparent conflict of interest. From the question's WaPo article

    Comey’s carefully worded comments, and those of Andrew McCabe, who took over as acting FBI director, suggested to some officials that an investigation of Trump for attempted obstruction may have been launched after Comey’s departure, particularly in light of Trump’s alleged statements regarding Flynn.

  3. So how to explain the apparent Hannity contradiction? Hannity is quoting the official line

    "Let me be crystal clear so you completely understand: We have not received nor are we aware of any investigation of the president of the United States,” Sekulow said.

    So nobody has told Trump, or his lawyers, that Trump is under investigation while the WaPo article quotes unnamed sources. With any potential investigation still early in the works, nobody is going to go on record (especially with Trump himself) to say he's under investigation. Again, from the question's WaPo article

    Mueller has not publicly discussed his work, and a spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.

    That doesn't mean there is no investigation at all, just that nobody in a position of authority (i.e. Mueller) is ready to go out there and drop that bombshell.

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