In his first substantive comments about the appointment of a special counsel to probe Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, President Donald Trump denied that his campaign had been involved in any collusion with Moscow, as he declared that the probe "divides the country."
"I think it's totally ridiculous, everybody thinks so," the President said about the investigation into Russian meddling, and whether it had ties to any Trump associates.
"There was no collusion - everybody, even my enemies have said there was no collusion," Mr. Trump added.
As for the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia probe, the President said, "I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt."
"I think it divides the country; I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things," the President added.
At a joint White House news conference with the President of Colombia, the President also had especially tough words for former Director James Comey, whom he fired just over a week ago, saying Comey was not the right person to lead the FBI.
"Director Comey was very unpopular - with most people," Mr. Trump said flatly, an assertion that has been contradicted by some within the bureau.
Mr. Trump said Comey's most recent testimony before Congress on May 3 was a "poor, poor performance," which he said directly led to the Deputy Attorney General writing a letter that raised questions about Comey's job performance.
Pressed for the first time by White House reporters on why he fired Comey, the President rejected reports that he had leaned on the FBI Director during a White House meeting to drop a probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
"No," the President said emphatically when asked about Comey and Flynn.
"Next question," Mr. Trump said.
The President repeatedly said it was time to move on from the Russia probe, and get back to the business of the nation.
"We have to get back to running this country, really, really well," as he said that "tremendous progress" had been made in his first four months in office.
The news conference marked the first substantive public comments by the President on domestic policy matters in the last two weeks, since he celebrated the May 4 approval in the House of a GOP health care bill.
After that health care victory, the President had said almost nothing in public about his legislative agenda, focused instead on firing the FBI Director, and dealing with a growing investigation into the Russia matter.
"We look forward to getting this whole situation behind us," the President said.
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