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


President Donald Trump on Thursday said the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election reflects poorly on national unity.

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history", he tweeted on Thursday.

The appointment was a concession by the Trump administration, which had resisted calls from Democrats to turn the investigation over to outside counsel.

The appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russian Federation probe was widely praised by Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans.

"Just as I agreed with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein's assessment that Mr. Comey damaged the credibility of the FBI, I trust his judgment in appointing Mr. Mueller as Special Counsel to lead the investigation into potential interference by Russian Federation in our 2016 election", Harris said.

Mueller was named as special counsel on Wednesday, one day after a report surfaced that Trump had requested ex-FBI Director James Comey end any investigations involving National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation.

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If, as reported, the White House really did learn only one hour ahead of the public that a special counsel had been appointed, this could serve as an indication of the Justice Department's desire to show that this really is an independent investigation.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Trump shot down allegations that his campaign had ties to "any foreign entity" and said that he looks forward to "this matter concluding quickly".

The committee is one of several on Capitol Hill investigating possible collusion between Russian Federation and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

He will have the power to subpoena and to prosecute and will not need the cooperation of ousted FBI Director James Comey or former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Rosenstein was briefing the Senate about his decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the independent Trump-Russia probe. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Rosenstein was generally careful in his meeting with senators but for the revelation, which contradicts the White House's original explanation for the firing.

"I'm not sure if he addressed that with the level of clarity that most people wanted to hear", Rubio told reporters.

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Trump has consistently rejected any suggestion of collusion between his camp and Moscow as "fake news" and complained in a speech Wednesday that he had been treated "more unfairly" than any USA leader in history during his fledgling presidency.

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.

"He was so respected during his time as FBI Director that President Obama asked Congress to allow Mr. Mueller to stay in office for an additional two years beyond the normal 10-year term limit", Lamborn said. Democratic senators were prepared to press Rosenstein in the closed-door session to appoint a special prosecutor and his decision instantly defused their complaints, leading to praise instead.

Another Democratic senator, Dick Durbin, said he had confidence that Mueller, who is widely respected among US lawmakers, will follow the facts where they lead.

Trump has repeatedly slammed the FBI and congressional investigations as a "hoax" and blamed disgruntled officials at intelligence agencies for leaking information related to the probes.

In the job, Mueller will have all the same powers as a US attorney, though he will still ultimately report to Rosenstein.

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