Trump claims ‘witch hunt’; GOP puts hope in spe­cial coun­sel

Cape Breton Post - - World -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­nounced the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate his cam­paign’s ties with Rus­sia Thurs­day, call­ing it an un­prece­dented “witch hunt’’ that “hurts our coun­try ter­ri­bly.’’ Even as he erupted anew, fel­low Repub­li­cans ex­pressed hopes the move would re­store some calm to a cap­i­tal plunged into chaos.

A day af­ter ap­point­ing former FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller to lead the in­de­pen­dent probe, Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein ap­peared be­hind closed doors be­fore the full Se­nate. Law­mak­ers of both par­ties sought to ques­tion him about Trump’s fir­ing last week of FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, which was fol­lowed by news that Trump had shared se­crets with the Rus­sians and tried to stop Comey from in­ves­ti­gat­ing former pres­i­den­tial ad­viser Michael Flynn.

“We’ll get rid of the smoke and see where the ac­tual is­sues lie,’’ said Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. “I do think that the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor pro­vides a sense of calm and con­fi­dence per­haps for the Amer­i­can peo­ple, which is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant.’’

Trump strongly dis­agreed. The ap­point­ment, he said in a brief­ing with news an­chors, “hurts our coun­try ter­ri­bly.’’

He said it “shows we’re a di­vided, mixed-up, not uni­fied coun­try’’ and is “a very, very neg­a­tive thing.’’

The Jus­tice De­part­ment an­nounced Wed­nes­day that former FBI di­rec­tor Robert Mueller has been given sweep­ing power to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial

links be­tween Moscow and Trump cam­paign as­so­ci­ates.

De­spite ini­tially op­pos­ing ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent coun­sel, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thurs­day that the devel­op­ment “helps as­sure peo­ple and the Jus­tice De­part­ment that they’re go­ing to go do their jobs in­de­pen­dently and thor­oughly, which is what we’ve called for all along.’’

But Trump, af­ter is­su­ing a mea­sured state­ment when the news first broke Wed­nes­day evening, al­lowed his re­sent­ment to burst forth Thurs­day in an­gry morn­ing tweets.

“This is the sin­gle great­est witch hunt of a politi­cian in Amer­i­can his­tory!’’ Trump wrote, ig­nor­ing im­peach­ment ef­forts and blis­ter­ing ver­bal at­tacks

on pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents and other po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

“With all of the il­le­gal acts that took place in the Clin­ton cam­paign & Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion, there was never a spe­cial coun­sel ap­pointed!’’ he added later, with­out pro­vid­ing ex­am­ples.

Trump was to hold a joint news con­fer­ence with the pres­i­dent of Colom­bia later Thurs­day, be­fore leav­ing Fri­day for his first for­eign trip, to the Mideast and beyond, which aides hope can have the ef­fect of re­fo­cus­ing a White House in dis­ar­ray.

The pres­i­dent’s tweets and com­ments to the TV an­chors drew lit­tle re­ac­tion from fel­low Repub­li­cans, who in­stead joined Democrats in heap­ing

praise on Mueller, a long­time re­spected law­man who served un­der Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama, pre­ced­ing Comey as head of the FBI. Now Mueller will have nearly un­fet­tered ac­cess to wit­nesses and in­for­ma­tion, and the abil­ity to bring crim­i­nal charges.

His ap­point­ment raises the stakes dra­mat­i­cally on the long-sim­mer­ing al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sia med­dled in the 2016 elec­tion and had con­nec­tions with mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign.

Demo­cratic sen­a­tors had been pre­pared to press Rosen­stein Thurs­day to take the step of ap­point­ing a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, but were left prais­ing him in­stead be­fore his closed-door brief­ing be­gan.

AP PHOTO

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein ar­rives on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Thurs­day, for a closed-door meet­ing with Sen­a­tors a day af­ter ap­point­ing former FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller to over­see the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble ties be­tween Rus­sia and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign.

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