WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he has “respect” for the Justice Department’s decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel, but that the investigation into potential collusion between Russian and his campaign has been a “witch hunt.”
“There is no collusion between certainly myself and the campaign, and I can only speak for myself, and Russia,” Trump said during a joint press briefing in the East Room of the White House with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Trump went on to suggest that the move was divisive and distracts from his administration’s larger agenda.
“I hate to see anything that divides,” Trump said. “I’m fine with anything that people want to do but we have to get back to running our country really, really well.”
The president also seemed to shift on how he came to his decision to terminate ousted FBI Director James Comey, which he noted he initially thought would be met with bipartisan praise.
While discussing why he fired Comey, Trump suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo criticizing Comey’s behavior after the director’s final appearance before Congress on his own initiative.
The White House initially claimed that Trump made the decision following a recommendation from Rosenstein, but the president said in an interview last week with NBC’s Lester Holt that he had already made the decision when he received Rosenstein’s letter.
Trump also provided a flat denial of a memo reportedly penned by Comey claiming that Trump asked him to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“No, no,” Trump replied when asked if he had done so. “Next question.”