Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump: Special counsel appointment 'hurts the country'

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President Trump on Thursday slammed the appointment of a special counsel to probe his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia as something that “hurts the country.”
“I believe it hurts the country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country,” the president said during a luncheon with television news anchors at the White House, according to a transcript of the meeting.
It's the second time that Trump has ripped the decision since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced he was making former FBI Director Robert Mueller a special counsel for the investigation.
On Thursday morning, Trump proclaimed it was a "witch hunt."
Trump reiterated his issues with the appointment during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House later Thursday.
“Well, I respect the move. But the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump said.
“I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running the country really, really, really well. …Believe me, there’s no collusion. Russia is fine.”
Lawmakers in both parties have praised the decision to appoint a special counsel and have been unanimous in their approval of Mueller's appointment.
But Trump sought to paint the entire investigation as a politically motivated tool his opponents are using to undermine his victory in the presidential election.
“It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way,” he said. “That’s all this is.”The president lamented that the Russia probe is sucking up oxygen in Washington, preventing his agenda from moving forward.
“We have very important things to be doing right now, whether it’s trade deals, whether it’s military, whether it’s stopping nuclear — all of the things that we discussed today,” he said. “And I think it shows a divided country.”
He expressed hope the investigation “can go quickly” so that he can shift back to working on his campaign promises.
“We have to show unity if we’re going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world,” he said.
Rosenstein separately briefed senators on Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Rosenstein indicated that the investigation of Russian meddling in the election was now moving from a counterintelligence probe into a criminal investigation. He suggested that Congress might need to steer clear of it.
Rosenstein authored a memo last week advocating for the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who succeeded Mueller and had been leading the FBI's investigation of Russia's meddling, as well as possible ties between members of the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Rosenstein indicated during the closed-door meeting that he knew Comey was going to be fired before he authored the memo.
The White House had at first suggested the firing was done in response to the Rosenstein memo, before changing its story when Trump said publicly that he planned to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein's recommendation.
Since then, reports have circulated that Comey wrote a memo after a meeting at which Trump asked him to stop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to Russia.
- Updated at 4:26 p.m.
The Hill 

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