"No, no - next question", Trump said when asked at a White House news conference on Thursday (May 18) whether he pressured then-FBI Director James Comey in February to drop an investigation into former White House adviser Michael Flynn's dealings with Russian Federation and Turkey. He went on to sharply criticize the investigation into his campaign's possible collusion with Russian officials to influence the US election.
But the day after the story broke, under headlines that said "Trump reveals secret intelligence to Russians", the president decided that he had better come clean on this one, admitting that the story was in fact true.
The president on Thursday muddled his explanation for firing Comey last week, saying he ousted him because he was "very unpopular with most people".
"I actually thought when I made that decision, that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such awful things about director Comey", he said.
Despite initially opposing appointment of an independent counsel, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the development "helps assure people and the Justice Department that they're going to go do their jobs independently and thoroughly, which is what we've called for all along".More news: Amidst global ransomware attack, new versions of WannaCry emerge
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"If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorised to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters", the order says. "And even, you could say, directly or indirectly, with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign".
Trump began the day by tweeting that he is the victim of "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history", a claim ignoring impeachment efforts and blistering verbal attacks on previous presidents and other political leaders. "Everybody thinks so. And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have".
"We want to bring this great country of ours together", he continued.
But a report in the New York Times this week that Trump allegedly asked Comey to end the investigation undercut the president's rationale and has led to accusations from some in Congress that Trump was attempting to obstruct justice. The Flynn investigation was part of a broader probe into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
There was confusion during the day surrounding Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser who has emerged as a central figure because of his own ties to Russian Federation, which led to his dismissal early on in the Trump administration. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go". Santos is expected to ask Mr. Trump, who is making cuts to foreign aid, to renew funding to support a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces.