Trump says that Rus­sia probe ‘di­vides the coun­try’


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he re­spects the ap­point­ment of for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­sian med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion but stood by his claim that it is a witch hunt tar­get­ing him.

“I re­spect the move but the en­tire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump said Thurs­day at a White House news con­fer­ence. “I think it di­vides the coun­try.”

“Be­lieve me, there is no col­lu­sion” be­tween his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Rus­sia, he added.

Ear­lier, Trump had tweeted, “This is the sin­gle great­est witch hunt of a politi­cian in Amer­i­can his­tory!” There was never a spe­cial coun­sel ap­pointed to in­ves­ti­gate what he called “all of the il­le­gal acts that took place in the Clin­ton cam­paign & Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

At the press con­fer­ence, Trump also de­nied try­ing to quash an FBI investigation of his for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

“No, no — next ques­tion,” Trump said when asked whether he pres­sured then-FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey in Fe­bru­ary to drop an investigation into for­mer White House ad­viser Michael Flynn’s deal­ings with Rus­sia and Turkey.

While Trump ques­tioned the le­git­i­macy of the investigation, it has thrown the ad­min­is­tra­tion off track and con­sumed its po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal. Many law­mak­ers from both par­ties wel­comed the ap­point­ment of Mueller by Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein as a way to re­store con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions and bring or­der to the probe.

Trump said Thurs­day he thought fir­ing Comey would be a pop­u­lar de­ci­sion be­cause he’d been crit­i­cized by Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike for his han­dling of an investigation into Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server while she was sec­re­tary of state. He said Comey turned in a “poor per­for­mance” in his most re­cent tes­ti­mony to Congress and that Rosen­stein had writ­ten a “very strong let­ter” out­lin­ing Comey’s short­com­ings.

Trump said he planed to an­nounce his choice for a new FBI di­rec­tor “soon.”

While Mueller takes over the Jus­tice Depart­ment investigation, probes in Congress were pro­ceed­ing as well.

Repub­li­can Richard Burr of North Carolina, chair­man of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, the rank­ing Demo­crat, said the panel would con­tinue its own investigation and “en­gage with Di­rec­tor Mueller” on any po­ten­tial con­flicts.

The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee re­quested doc­u­ments from the Jus­tice Depart­ment and FBI about the bu­reau’s investigation and any records re­lated to Comey’s dis­missal. Comey wrote de­tailed memos of his con­ver­sa­tions with Trump, in­clud­ing one in which the pres­i­dent al­legedly asked him to drop a probe of Flynn.

Flynn was forced to re­sign in Fe­bru­ary af­ter it was dis­closed that he mis­led Vice-pres­i­dent Mike Pence about the nature of his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sia’s U.S. am­bas­sador.


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump calls the probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion ‘a witch hunt’.


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