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The Russia-Trump Campaign Investigation May Now Be "Considered a Criminal Investigation"

The Russia-Trump Campaign Investigation May Now Be

President Donald Trump, striking a defiant tone on Thursday after days of political tumult, denied colluding with Russian Federation during his 2016 campaign or asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop a probe into his former national security adviser.

Comey's performance at a May 3 congressional hearing also played a role in his dismissal, Trump said.

Mueller was named as special counsel on Wednesday, one day after a report surfaced that Trump had requested ex-FBI Director James Comey end any investigations involving National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation.

When President Trump tweeted this morning, "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history", Senator Amy Klobuchar quickly responded tweeting, "This is a truth hunt".

He leapt to make the point again at a joint news conference with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, describing the development as a distraction.

"Based on the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command", Mr Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein's memo, on which President Trump purportedly relied in coming to his decision to dismiss Comey, referenced Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a grounds for dismissal.

"He knew that Comey was going to be removed prior to him writing his memo", said Sen.

The White House initially said last week that a letter Rosenstein wrote accusing Comey of missteps as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, including his handling of an election-year probe into Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, was what prompted Trump to fire Comey.

Trump himself, in a statement right after the appointment late Wednesday, said merely, "A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity".

He also defended his decision to fire Comey last week, saying it was because of his poor performance and popularity. Democrats rejected Mr Trump's characterisation.

Senator Klobuchar said stakes could not be higher.

In an atypical move for a sitting president, Trump publicly criticized a law enforcement matter decided by his own Justice Department, to appoint and independent investigator to take over the probe. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the right decision was made to name a special counsel to oversee the FBI investigaton of Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 US election.

The Tennessee senator did not elaborate further on Rosenstein's briefing of senators.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) later confirmed what McCaskill had said. These include his reported request in January that then-FBI Director James Comey swear his loyalty to the president; his reported attempt a month later to persuade Comey to drop an investigation of Trump's first national security adviser, who had to quit after he lied about the nature of his contacts with Russian officials; and his decision last week to fire Comey.

"There's only so much firing you can do", Krauthammer said.

The bipartisan consensus afterward is that the Trump-Russia investigation has taken on a new level of seriousness. Comey, for instance, has been invited to testify in front of several committees next week; if the special counsel's investigation does end up pursuing criminal charges, he and other figures may not be able to speak publicly.


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