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Trump says special counsel ‘divides the country’

By Associated Press 12:36 PM May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says that the appointment of a special counsel for the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia “divides the country.”

Trump is reacting to the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the investigation after he fired FBI Director James Comey.

Trump said Thursday that he respects “the entire thing” but said that he personally has no ties to Russia.

He reiterated his earlier comments that the investigation is a “witch hunt.”

Trump says, “we want to bring this country of ours together.”

Trump was speaking in a joint press conference with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.

___

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein learned the day before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey that the law enforcement chief was going to be sacked.

That’s the word from Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

Durbin says Rosenstein told senators at a closed briefing Thursday that he “learned of the president’s decision to fire him (Comey) and then he wrote his memo with his rationale.” Durbin said Rosenstein learned on May 8.

He said Rosenstein didn’t tell lawmakers who told him to write the memo with the rationale for ousting Comey.

Durbin said there was frustration among some senators in the briefing because Rosenstein did not want to answer all their questions. He said Rosenstein’s reason was that he didn’t want to infringe on special counsel Robert Mueller.

___

3:40 p.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has told senators that he knew FBI Director James Comey was going to be fired even before he wrote a memo that provided a basis for Comey’s dismissal.

That’s according to Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. She addressed reporters after a closed-door meeting where Rosenstein briefed senators.

The White House pointed to Rosenstein’s memo last week as justification for Trump’s abrupt decision to dismiss Comey. In the memo Rosenstein criticized Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

But Trump himself has already said that he was going to fire Comey regardless – and the revelation from McCaskill appeared to bolster that version of events.

McCaskill said: “He did acknowledge that he learned Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo.”

___

3:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he’s “very close” to naming a new FBI director.

Asked Thursday how close he is to making an announcement, Trump answered “soon.”

Trump was also asked whether former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was among the top contenders for the job. Trump’s response was “He is.”

Trump and Lieberman discussed the position at the White House on Wednesday. Three other potential candidates Trump interviewed on Wednesday are former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, former top FBI official Richard McFeely and Andrew McCabe. McCabe became acting director after Trump fired James Comey as director last week.

Trump has said he could name a new director before he leaves Friday on his first overseas trip as president.

___

3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election “hurts our country terribly.”

He says the move “shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not unified country” and is “a very, very negative thing.”

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been given sweeping power to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, including potential links between Moscow and Trump campaign associates.

The president spoke at a lunch with news anchors at the White House.

Several attendees posted excerpts online.

___

2:35 p.m.

Former CIA Director John Brennan will appear before the House intelligence committee next week to answer questions about allegations of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

The committee announced Thursday that Brennan will appear Tuesday at an open session.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are looking into Russian interference in last year’s election as well as any coordination that Trump officials may have had with Russian officials.

___

1:35 p.m.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is mocking President Donald Trump’s complaints about unfair treatment by the news media.

Pelosi herself has long been a target of Republican criticism. She scoffed at Trump’s claim that he’s been treated “more unfairly” than any politician in history, saying Thursday, “Get some thick skin, OK?”

Pelosi also ridiculed Trump’s complaint about a “witch hunt” following the naming of a special counsel to investigate possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

She asked, “How did he spell witch hunt?” a reference to Trump’s frequent misspellings on Twitter. He misspelled the word “counsel” on Thursday.

Pelosi calls the White House unruly and undisciplined and says it “needs adult supervision.”

___

1:10 p.m.

The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee says his panel has not received a response from Michael Flynn’s lawyer – correcting his earlier statement that Flynn would not comply with a subpoena.

Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina says ousted National Security Adviser Flynn’s attorneys “have not yet indicated their intentions regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s subpoena” as part of the panel’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Burr says he would welcome Flynn’s willingness to cooperate. Hours earlier, Burr said Flynn’s lawyer said he wouldn’t comply, “and that is not a surprise to the committee. We’ll figure out on General Flynn what the next step, if any, is.”

___

10:31 a.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is mocking U.S. news reports suggesting President Donald Trump shared sensitive intelligence with him about terror threats involving laptops on airplanes.

Lavrov didn’t directly confirm details of their conversation. But he told reporters Thursday in Cyprus that he doesn’t understand what the “secret” was, since the U.S. introduced a ban on laptops on airlines from some Middle Eastern countries two months ago.

He joked that some U.S. media were acting like communist newspapers during the Soviet Union and not offering real news.

Lavrov says media reported that Trump told him “terrorists are capable of stuffing laptops, all kinds of electronic devices, with untraceable explosive materials,” information he says the administration revealed with the laptop ban.

___

11:45 a.m.

The House intelligence committee is asking for more government documents – this time about the ouster of FBI Director Jim Comey and conversations he had with President Donald Trump about investigations into Russian meddling in the election.

The committee said Thursday it sent a letter requesting material from the FBI and Justice Department related to its ongoing counterintelligence investigation.

Texas Republican Mike Conaway and California Democrat Adam Schiff say they will continue to work with the FBI as the investigation moves forward.

___

11:25 a.m.

A lawyer for fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has informed the Senate Intelligence Committee he will not honor its subpoena for private documents. That’s according to the panel’s chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Burr told reporters Thursday about the response from Flynn’s lawyer. Burr says the panel’s members are not surprised and says, “We’ll figure out on Gen. Flynn what the next step, if any, is.”

The committee is one of several on Capitol Hill investigating possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Flynn was ousted earlier this year from his senior administration job.

___

7:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is assailing the naming of a special counsel as “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Trump is responding to the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead a probe of allegations that Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the election.

In another tweet Thursday morning, he claims, “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel (sic) appointed!” Trump later deleted and retweeted that statement to correct the spelling of “counsel.”

He did not provide examples or evidence of any alleged “illegal acts.”

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last week, prompting some to call for an independent prosecutor to lead the investigation.

The White House says an investigation will prove there was no collusion.

___

3:26 a.m.

The Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller (MUHL’-ur) as a special counsel to lead a federal investigation into allegations that Donald Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election that put him in the White House.

Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers.

The surprise announcement to hand the probe over to Mueller, a lawman with deep bipartisan respect, was a striking shift for Trump’s Justice Department, which had resisted increasingly loud calls from Democrats for an outside prosecutor.

It immediately escalated the legal stakes – and the potential political damage – for a president who has tried to dismiss the matter as partisan witch hunt and a “hoax.”

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

5/18/2017 12:30:16 PM (GMT -8:00)

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