×

Trump: ‘single greatest witch hunt’ of politician ever

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday. ap photo

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 18, 2017, for a closed-door meeting with Senators a day after appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into possible ties between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin

  • President Donald Trump, followed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos arrives for their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May, 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo, then-FBI director Robert Mueller speaks during an interview at FBI headquarters in Washington. The Justice Department on May 17, 2017, appointed Mueller as a special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) Evan Vucci

  • Former FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Anti-Defamation League Summit in Washington last week. ap file photo

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Ryan said of the special counsel appointment of Robert Mueller was consistent with his goal of ensuring that "thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite



Associated Press
Thursday, May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Brimming with resentment, President Donald Trump fervently denied on Thursday that his campaign had collaborated with Russia or that he’d tried to kill an FBI probe of the issue, contending that “even my enemies” recognize his innocence and declaring himself the most unfairly hounded president in history.

Asked point-blank if he’d done anything that might merit prosecution or even impeachment, he said no and then added concerning the allegations and questions that have mounted as he nears the four-month mark of his presidency: “I think it’s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so.”

Not quite everybody. While Trump tweeted and voiced his indignation at the White House, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed an independent special counsel to lead a heightened federal Trump-Russia investigation the day before, briefed the entire Senate behind closed doors at the Capitol. By several senators’ accounts, he contradicted Trump’s statements that Rosenstein’s written criticism of FBI Director James Comey had been a factor in Comey’s recent firing by the president.

Trump is leaving Friday for his first foreign trip, to the Mideast and beyond, and aides had hoped the disarray at home would have been calmed if not resolved, allowing the White House to refocus and move ahead. Republicans on Capitol Hill hoped the same, reasoning that the appointment of a special counsel could free them to work on a major tax overhaul and other matters without constant distractions.

Trump said he was about to name a replacement for Comey, another move to settle the waters. Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was seen as the front-runner.

But calmness seemed far off.

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.

Did he urge Comey at a February meeting to drop his probe of the Russia connections of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn?

“No. No. Next question.”

Did he in fact collude with Russia in his campaign to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton?

“Everybody, even my enemies, have said there is no collusion,” he maintained.

However another answer on that subject seemed both more specific and perhaps ambiguous. “There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign – but I can only speak for myself – and the Russians. Zero.”

“The entire thing has been a witch hunt,” he declared, echoing one of the tweets he’d sent out just after dawn: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

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. One striking piece of news emerged from Rosenstein’s briefing: He told senators that he had already known Comey was getting fired even as he wrote the memo that Trump cited as a significant justification for the FBI director’s dismissal. Trump himself had already contradicted that explanation, telling interviewers earlier that he had already decided to dismiss Comey.