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Donald Trump

Trump says he is victim of an historic ‘witch-hunt’ - and even his enemies think he’s innocent

The US president’s latest tweet storm follows the naming of ex-FBI Director William Mueller to probe Trump aides’ possible Russia ties in 2016 election

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 May, 2017, 12:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 May, 2017, 9:51am

US President Donald Trump has lashed out efforts to investigate possible connections between his associates and Russia, characterising them on Twitter as “the greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history” and contending in a press conference that “even my enemies” recognise his innocence.

Asked point-blank if he’d done anything that might merit prosecution or even impeachment, he said no and then added: “I think it’s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so.”

Trump clearly knew what he wanted to say as he took a few questions on Thursday 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!”

He said he respected the special counsel appointment but also said it “hurts our country terribly.”

The president’s responses followed the Justice Department’s announcement that it had appointed a special prosecutor, former FBI Director William Mueller, to investigate whether Trump aides were involved in what the US intelligence community has identified as an attempt by Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favour. Mueller is generally respected by both Republicans and Democrats.

Trump also suggested on Twitter that former US presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton had committed acts that should have been investigated by a special prosecutor.

In addition to the probe that Mueller will direct, the House of Representatives and the Senate are conducting separate investigations.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of Mueller on Wednesday, following reports that Trump tried in February to persuade then FBI director James Comey to drop his investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn. The New York Times cited a memo written by Comey about those alleged efforts.

Last week, Trump fired Comey.

US Senate panel demands Comey’s memos and Trump’s tapes as controversy escalates

Former Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House in January that Flynn misrepresented his conversations with Russia’s US ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, leaving Flynn vulnerable to blackmail.

Republicans welcomed Mueller’s appointment and expressed hopes it would restore some composure to a capital plunged in chaos.

“We’ll get rid of the smoke and see where the actual issues lie,” said Senator Tim Scott. “I do think that the special prosecutor provides a sense of calm and confidence perhaps for the American people, which is incredibly important.”

Despite initially opposing appointment of an independent counsel, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the development “helps assure people and the Justice Department that they’re going to go do their jobs independently and thoroughly, which is what we’ve called for all along.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press