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Trump calls Russia probe 'witch hunt', denies coercing Comey

May 19, 2017 09:19 IST

United States President Donald Trump has said that he respects the appointment of a special counsel to probe his campaign’s alleged involvement with Russia in the 2016 presidential polls but termed the whole issue as a ‘witch hunt’ against him.

“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign,” he said while responding to a question on the appointment of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Muller to investigate the allegations of Russian interference in the elections.

“Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday.

The President has maintained that he has nothing to do with Russia.

“I can always speak for myself and the Russians -- zero. I think it divides the country. I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things,” he said.

The US president said he wants to bring America and has had tremendous success in doing so.

“You look at our job numbers. You look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before. You look at what will be happening. You’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of (defence secretary) general (James) Mattis and others with the ISIS situation. The numbers are staggering, how successful the military has been,” Trump said.

His remarks came ahead of his maiden foreign trip starting with a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to Saudi Arabia. I’m going to Israel. I’m going to Rome. And we have the G7. We have a lot of great things going on. So I hate to see anything that divides. I’m fine with whatever people want to do. But we have to get back to running this country really, really well. We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100 and some odd days,” Trump said.

He reiterated that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

“Believe me, there’s no collusion. Russia is fine. But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America,” he said.

Responding to question about the call for his impeachment as raised by the Democrats, Trump said it is ridiculous and maintained that the US is progressing under his rule.
“I think it’s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so. We have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have. We have plenty of problems. We’ve done a fantastic job,” he said.

Talking about the appointment of a new FBI chief for which he has been interviewing several candidates in the past few days, Trump said he will be announcing the new director soon and looks forward to doing it.

“I think the people in the FBI will be very, very, very, very thrilled,” he said.

He said that he looks forward to getting the whole controversy behind him so that he can focus on creating jobs and making a strong military.

“We need health care. We need to cut taxes. We’re going to cut taxes. If I get what I want, it’ll be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation. And that’s what I want. It’s going to bring back companies. It's going to bring back jobs. We lost so many jobs and so many companies,” Trump said.

“We want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on, because the track that we’re on is record-setting. And that’s what we want to do is we want to break very positive records,” he said.

Trump also refuted the claims made by a media report that he had asked sacked FBI director James Comey to quash the agency’s investigation into ties between his former national security adviser Mike Flynn and Russia.

“No,” he said when he was asked about the report.

According to a report published in the New York Times on Tuesday, Trump asked Comey to end the investigation against Flynn.

“I hope you can let this go," the US president was quoted as telling Comey in the report.

Comey was abruptly fired by Trump at a time when he was leading an investigation into whether the latter’s election campaign had links with Russia.

When further asked whether he urged Comey in any way to back down the investigation, Trump interrupted the reporter and proceeded to the next question.

Defending his decision to sack Comey, he said the former FBI chief was ‘very unpopular’ among many people.

“I actually thought when I made that decision, that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about director Comey,” he said.

“Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday. That was a poor, poor performance. That’s why the deputy attorney general went out and wrote his very, very strong letter,” Trump said while referring to Comey’s testimony before lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“And then on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made,” he noted.

Lalit K Jha
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