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