Asked whether it was the “right move” or a “witch hunt” for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to have named a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the election and possible Trump campaign collusion, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he can only speak for himself.
“I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump responded during his first press conference since Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the probe. “And there is no collusion between, certainly myself and my campaign. But I can only speak for myself and the Russians. Zero,” Trump said, standing next to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was meeting with Trump at the White House, prompting the presser.
That might have caught the attention of Carter Page, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and maybe Jared Kushner.
“I think it divides the country,” Trump said of the special counsel. “I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things. I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well. … Because, believe me, there is no collusion. Russia is fine. But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.”
When a reporter asked if Trump had ordered former FBI Director James Comey to close, or back down from, the bureau’s investigation of former NSA Michael Flynn, the president impatiently shot back, “No. No. Next question.”
Comey reportedly wrote up a memo about having been asked that by Trump.
Trump once again said he had expected that his sacking of Comey would have gotten strong bipartisan approval, given Comey’s public statements about the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails days before the election.
Shortly before meeting with Santos, Trump had lunch with TV news anchors, at which he said Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller “hurts our country terribly.”
“Because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country,” Trump said on the record, in what was otherwise an off-the-record lunch.
Hours earlier, on Twitter, Trump more colorfully called Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller as special counsel “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”