Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
National | By Rosalie Gross

Trump Believes He's The Victim Of 'Witch Hunt' Amid Russia Probe

Trump Believes He's The Victim Of 'Witch Hunt' Amid Russia Probe

"I think so", said Harris, a former prosecutor.

The Justice Department has appointment Robert Mueller, as a special counsel to lead the federal investigation into the Trump campaign links with Moscow to sway the 2016 election.

Trump emphatically said "no" when asked during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the White House's East Room.

The Russia matter has consumed Washington and overshadowed Republican legislative priorities including a planned healthcare overhaul and sweeping tax cuts, something the party had hoped to make rapid progress on given its control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Comey was then fired by Trump as the investigation continued.

But calmness seemed far off.

Did he urge Comey at a February meeting to drop his probe of the Russian Federation connections of Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn?

"Everybody, even my enemies, have said there is no collusion", he replied. "There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. This is the single greatest witch-hunt of a politician in American history!"

His initial response was seen as moderate, but now President Trump has lashed out at the appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible links between his team and Russian Federation.

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

Senators said Mr Rosenstein steered clear of specifics while making clear Mr Mueller has wide latitude to pursue the investigation wherever it leads, potentially including criminal charges. Despite the president's furious reaction, some fellow Republicans welcomed Mueller's appointment and expressed hopes it would restore some composure to a capital plunged in chaos.

"We'll get rid of the smoke and see where the actual issues lie", said Sen. "And I think this shows a very divided country", Trump added.

Trump last week fired ex-FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating the president's campaign, and reports since then have raised questions about whether he had tried to influence the investigation. Trump himself had already contradicted that explanation, telling interviewers earlier that he had already chose to dismiss Comey. After the briefing, California Democrat Kamala Harris was asked if Rosenstein's integrity was compromised by writing the memo after he knew Comey would be fired.

Trump referred to Comey's testimony at a recent Capitol Hill hearing after which the Justice Department ended up having to amend part of his testimony regarding last year's probe of Hillary Clinton's email practices.

"That was a poor, poor performance", Mr Trump said.

Instead of being a popular decision, the firing was met by a tsunami of criticism by Democrats because as FBI director, Comey oversaw the investigation of Russian meddling in the US election and potential ties to Trump's campaign.

In some of the longest exchanges with reporters during a week filled with explosive headlines, including news that Comey had penned a memo documenting the president asking him to stop investigating Flynn, Trump said he thought the decision to fire Comey would be bipartisan, said repeatedly there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russian Federation, and attempted to spin it as a partisan distraction.

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