President Trump says special counsel in Russia investigation 'divides the country'

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump says that the appointment of a special counsel for the ongoing investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia "divides the country."     

Trump said Thursday during a joint press conference with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, that he respects "the entire thing" but said that he personally has no ties to Russia.           

He reiterated his earlier comments that the investigation is a "witch hunt."              

Trump says, "we want to bring this country of ours together."    

During the press conference, Mr. Trump responded with a direct "no, no" to a question about whether he asked former FBI Director James Comey to shelf an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump was also questioned Thursday over revelations that he had shared secrets with the Russians. He denied this as well. 

Before the press conference on Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told senators that he knew Comey was going to be fired even before he wrote a memo that provided a basis for Comey's dismissal.

That's the word from Sens. Claire McCaskill and Dick Durbin. McCaskill addressed reporters after a closed-door meeting where Rosenstein briefed senators.

The White House pointed to Rosenstein's memo last week as justification for Trump's abrupt decision to dismiss Comey. In the memo, Rosenstein criticized Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. 

But Trump himself has already said that he was going to fire Comey regardless - and the revelation from McCaskill appeared to bolster that version of events.   

"He did acknowledge that he learned Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo," McCaskill said.

Durbin says Rosenstein told senators at a closed briefing Thursday that he "learned of the president's decision to fire him (Comey) and then he wrote his memo with his rationale." Durbin said Rosenstein learned on May 8. 

He said Rosenstein didn't tell lawmakers who told him to write the memo with the rationale for ousting Comey. 

Durbin said there was frustration among some senators in the briefing because Rosenstein did not want to answer all their questions. He said Rosenstein's reason was that he didn't want to infringe on special counsel Robert Mueller.                            

© 2017 Associated Press


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