In the East Room with Colombia’s President Santos, President Trump responded for the first time in person to the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election.
“I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. There’s been no collusion between myself, the campaign – I can only speak for myself and the Russians,” President Trump said.
While the president said he respected the decision to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller to look into the matter. He also denounced it as bad for the nation.
“It divides the country. We have a divided country. We want to bring [this] great country together,” President Trump said. “I hate to see anything that divides -- fine with whatever people do, but we need to get back to running this country.”
The president also responded for the first time in person to a memo said to be written by former FBI director James Comey.
That memo claims that in a February Oval Office meeting, the president asked Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Did the president say that?
“No, no…Next question.”
The appointment of Robert Mueller to take over the Russia investigation was met with near universal praise on Capitol Hill.
“This is an excellent appointment. He has impeccable credentials, he was a former FBI director where he served with distinction and before that, he was a career prosecutor. He’s gonna follow the facts. He’s gonna do a through investigation and clear the decks,” Sen. Richard Shelby said.
While some Republicans say there’s a danger a special prosecutor could feel compelled to pursue convictions. They also thought it could work out in the president’s favor – if his statements about “no collusion” with Russia are true.
“From the president’s perspective, you’d rather not have any of this here. But if Mueller goes and says, ‘Look, there’s no evidence of any crime here. It’s going to be hard for Democrats to argue with that,’” Rep. Ron DeSantis.
White House staffers see the appointment as an “opportunity” to get back to the president’s agenda, without the shrill rhetoric coming off Capitol Hill – and indeed, Democrats do appear to have dialed it back a notch.
“I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
But another controversy is rising, this one around Vice President Mike Pence – and whether as head of the transition team. He was aware Lt. General Michael Flynn had informed the transition, he was under investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.
In a March 9 interview, the vice president insisted he knew nothing of Flynn’s business dealings.
“It’s the first I heard of it, and I think it is an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign,” VP Pence said.
VP Pence’s office backed up that assertion in a statement, saying: “The Vice President stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding Gen. Flynn’s ties to Turkey.”
Flynn has still into said whether he will comply with a subpoena to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
James Comey, on the other hand, is said to be eager to testify in public and is also said to have many more memos he has so far been keeping to himself.
Flynn has not yet said whether he will comply with the subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee and go up to Capitol Hill to give testimony.