President Donald Trump called the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into potential collusion between his campaign and Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election “a very, very negative thing” that “hurts our country terribly.”
Trump made the comments during a lunch with major network news anchors one day after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to be special counsel. That lunch was set to focus on his upcoming foreign trip to Europe and the Middle East.
“I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country,” Trump said. “And we have very important things to be doing right now, whether it’s trade deals, whether it’s military, whether it’s stopping nuclear — all of the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country.”
“It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way,” he continued. “That’s all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we’re not together as a country. And I think it’s a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we’re going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world.”
Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted that “this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” and said “with all of the illegal acts that took place in the [Hillary] Clinton campaign & [former President Barack] Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”
Politico reported prior to Trump’s Twitter outburst and his comments to news anchors that he actually handled the news “better than anyone expected,” according to someone present in the Oval Office when Trump was first told of Rosenstein appointing Mueller. The person said his reaction was “extremely measured.”
“He didn’t yell or scream,” Politico reported. “He told the assembled crowd they had nothing to hide.”
Shortly after Mueller’s appointment was announced, the White House sent out a statement attributed to Trump that was a bit toned down from his Thursday tweets and remarks.
“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” the statement read. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
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