Graham: Russia investigation now a criminal one

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Two days after Trump became president, Comey attended a ceremony that Trump hosted honoring law enforcement officials and tried to blend in with the curtains to avoid being noticed by the president, according to a report by The New York Times.

Republicans have largely stood behind Trump in the first months of his presidency as the FBI and congressional investigations into Russia's election meddling intensified.

Rosenstein briefed senators on Thursday but made no public comments.

Speaking at a joint press conference at the White House with Colombian President Juan Miguel Santos, Trump reiterated the phrase he used Thursday morning on Twitter and again denied his campaign colluded in Russia's cyberattacks against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats during last year's election.

"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly", he said. Durbin said Rosenstein told senators he wrote the letter giving justification for Comey's firing knowing the plans were already in the works.

Rosenstein had the responsibility of deciding to appoint a special counsel because Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former surrogate for the Trump campaign, has recused himself from decisions on the issue.

Benjamin Thomas Wolf worked under Robert Mueller - the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director now leading the probe into alleged ties between the President's campaign team and Russian Federation.

In his statement announcing Mr Mueller's appointment, Mr Rosenstein said: "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".

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The latest political storm, coupled with the still-potent fallout from Trump's recent disclosure of classified information to Russian diplomats at the White House, has overshadowed all else in the capital and beyond.

While Rosenstein didn't ask senators to stand down - one member said he was "unequivocal" that the Senate Intelligence Committee should continue its probe - some members are bracing for at least a temporary slowdown while Mueller determines the breadth of his probe. Then it took more than a month for the panel to announce its first public hearing after Conaway took over the investigation: an open hearing with former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan on May 23 to discuss matters "related to Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign". Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said of Rosenstein after the hearing.

Comey's friend, Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution, tells the Times he had lunch with Comey in March. Several congressional Republicans said Wednesday that if Trump did suggest that Comey "let this go" regarding Flynn's Russian contacts, it was probably just a joke, light banter.

Around the same time that Trump was preparing for his press conference, Rosenstein reportedly told the full Senate that Trump had already made a decision to fire Comey before Trump asked him to submit a memo that would amount to reasoning.

"I believe it hurts our country terribly because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not unified country", Efe quoted Mr. Trump as saying.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) says that former FBI Director James Comey could break his silence as soon as next week following his firing by President Trump.

The appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russian Federation probe was widely praised by Democrats and Mr Trump's fellow Republicans.

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