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Trump denies asking Comey to drop probe, decries 'witch hunt'
19 May 2017, 10:45 | Austin Hogan
Donald Trump vs James Comey
Rosenstein's 2:30 p.m. briefing with the Senate was scheduled before he announced late Wednesday that he was appointing Robert Mueller, a former prosecutor who served as FBI director from 2001 to 2013, to take over the Russian Federation investigation as special counsel. With such authority, Mr. Mueller could explore such related issues as the circumstances behind the firing of James Comey as FBI director, conversations between Mr. Comey and President Trump, including any perceived efforts on President Trump's part to influence the direction of any FBI investigation, and the unmasking and leaking of classified information pertaining to former national security adviser Michael T. 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". A day after the memo came out, Trump also said he'd previously made that decision.
Trump later told news anchors at the White House that Mueller's appointment was a "very, very negative thing", adding: "I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country".
Trump clearly knew what he wanted to say as he took a few questions at a news briefing with visiting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
"The entire thing has been a witch hunt and there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign - but I can always speak for myself - and the Russians".
"I'm fine with whatever people want to do", he added.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said Rosenstein told senators that he knew Comey would be fired before he wrote his letter accusing him of missteps as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, including his handling of an election-year probe into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. "He's going to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, of that I have no doubt". Trump wrote on Thursday morning.
Trump claimed on Wednesday that "no politician in history" has been "treated worse" than him.
The Justice Department's appointment of Mueller has been welcomed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Mr Rosenstein told the senators that, in fact, Mr Trump had made a decision to fire Mr Comey the day before he wrote his memo.
His appointment raises the stakes dramatically on the long-simmering allegations that Russian Federation meddled in the 2016 election and had connections with members of the Trump campaign.
Missouri's U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is being very vocal after a meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein yesterday. That is fundamentally a counterintelligence investigation, but Mr. Mueller will be under pressure to bring criminal indictments of some kind to justify his existence.
"One of the side benefits of this is that now Congress has been pretty much sidelined, not completely but pretty much, and we can go back to dealing with legislative matters that affect the American people".
"He could have shared what he told us in a public hearing", the senator said. "I hope that we don't inadvertently trip up or damage the independent investigation of the special counsel", he said.
During a Senate briefing today, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein updated Capitol Hill on the status of the investigation into ties between the Trump administration and Russian foreign officials. Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr indicated at one point that Flynn was resisting the committee's document subpoenas, but later clarified that he hadn't actually heard from Flynn's lawyer to that effect and he would welcome "their willingness to cooperate".