Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Donald Trump denies asking Comey to drop probe, decries 'witch hunt'

Donald Trump denies asking Comey to drop probe, decries 'witch hunt'

Asked whether he pressured the FBI to close its investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn - as was reported earlier this week - President Donald Trump flatly said he had not.

But warning that leaks were undermining national security, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said: "By grandstanding and politicising the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russian Federation".

On Wednesday, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel for the investigation into links between Trump's campaign and Russian election hacking.

"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly", Donald Trump said this week as he heard the special prosecutor's footsteps.

"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity", it said.

"There was no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign - but I can only speak for myself - and the Russians - zero", he said, adding that questions surrounding his campaign were divisive and pulled focus from other problems facing the nation.

The comments, allegedly made one day after Trump abruptly fired Comey, could fuel allegations Trump got rid of him because of the investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

Senators said that Rosenstein steered clear of specifics while making clear that Mueller has wide latitude to pursue the investigation wherever it leads, including potentially criminal charges.

Comey not only wrote down what Trump had asked of him, but he shared the contents of his memo with senior Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and other close colleagues.

Another government official who spoke to the Times said Trump was using a "negotiating tactic" with Lavrov when he explained the "pressure" he faced. That was two days after Rosenstein named Mueller as a special counsel to investigate possible coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute the comments to the Times. "I can't see anything that would make [the controversy] go away".

Rosenstein said the Mueller appointment was "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome".

Trump is leaving town Friday on his first foreign trip, and aides have been hopeful the journey will be a chance for the administration to get back on track after weeks of chaos and distractions.

"Director Comey was very unpopular with most people", Trump said.

An anonymous source told the Post that Rosenstein was upset at the White House for initially saying his memo was the reason Comey was sacked, and threatened to resign if that narrative was not changed.

In his statement announcing Mr Mueller's appointment, Mr Rosenstein said: "The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command". Trump wrote, misspelling the word counsel as he referred to Democratic former President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"I do think you need to be careful, but he'll learn as he goes along", Cheney predicted to CNN's Barbara Starr.

"It was a full flip-flop, going from absolutely "false" to "either confirming or declining to challenge almost every key aspect of the account", the Washington Post said".

His latest tweets came hours before he was to hold a joint press conference with the visiting Colombian president.

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