Trump Assails 'Witch Hunt' After Naming of Special Counsel

Trump Assails 'Witch Hunt' After Naming of Special Counsel

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller has been given sweeping power to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, including potential links between Moscow and President Trump campaign associates.

"Well, I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt", Trump said when asked about the investigation.

Given the politically explosive context, Mueller's appointment was widely welcomed across the political spectrum.

U.S. President Donald Trump, striking a defiant tone on Thursday after days of political tumult, denied asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop a probe into his former national security adviser and decried a "witch hunt" against him.

In another Twitter post Thursday, Trump said: "With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel (sic) appointed!".

US President Donald Trump speaks during the US Coast Guard Academy Commencement Ceremony in New London, Connecticut, May 17, 2017.

The White House had "absolutely no indication" the appointment was coming and was given a heads up less than an hour before it was publicly announced, according to a senior White House official.

Graham said that the nature of Mueller's investigation has hurt the Senate's ability to call witnesses in their counter-intelligence probe.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in favour of Mr Trump. The reports, based on a memo Comey wrote after their conversation, fueled allegations by Democrats that the Republican president may have been trying to obstruct the investigation.

The goal of the special counsel probe, he said, was to determine whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russian Federation to do so.

The White House initially said last week that Trump was prompted to fire Comey after reading the Rosenstein letter. Trump cited displeasure with the Russian Federation probe as a factor in dismissing Comey.

Reactions from Congress to Mueller's appointment were mainly positive, even though Republicans had dismissed an independent outside investigation as unnecessary and duplicative of what congressional committees already are doing.

Mueller, a former Marine officer and federal prosecutor, was sworn in as the sixth director of the FBI on September 4, 2001 - just a week before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"I would be very discouraged if somehow this new special prosecutor would preclude Jim Comey from testifying in public before our committee", he said. 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". Trump's comments came in a luncheon at the White House with network anchors.

The New York Times reported late Wednesday that Flynn told the president-elect's transition team in early January that he was the subject of a federal investigation, but was hired for the highly sensitive national security adviser position anyway.

"I believe Mueller will be independent, he will be thorough and he will be fair and he's not going to be easily swayed", said Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the oversight panel.

A key issue Mueller may have to tackle is whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice, an offence that could be used in any effort in the Republican-led Congress to impeach him and remove him from office.

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