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Trump says appointing special counsel to oversee Trump-Russia probe "divides country"

Xinhua, May 19, 2017 Adjust font size:

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as the special counsel to oversee his campaign's ties with Russia "divides country."

"I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt and there is no collusion between - certainly myself and my campaign, but I can only speak for myself and the Russians. Zero." Trump said at a joint press conference with his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos in the White House.

In contrast with Trump's remarks, Mueller's appointment has received widely bipartisan welcome across Congress since Wednesday evening when the news went public.

At the press conference, Trump also dismissed suggestions of criminal charges or impeachment: "I think it's totally ridiculous."

Asked whether he required ousted FBI chief James Comey to shut down a probe into former National Security advisor Michael Flynn, Trump answered: "No. No. Next question."

The U.S. president tweeted Thursday morning branding the probe into possibly Russian collusion with his campaign the "single greatest witch hunt" in political history.

"I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," Trump said later at a luncheon with a group of television news anchors.

Democratic lawmakers have been clamoring for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor in the wake of Tuesday reports that Comey penned a memo documenting a request from Trump that he "let go" of the investigation into Flynn.

"Considering the unique circumstance of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome," said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a statement.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Mueller, who served as FBI director between September, 2001 and September, 2013, will have the authority to investigate whether the Russian government colluded with individuals associated with Trump's campaign and to prosecute federal crimes uncovered in the probe.

Though the Mueller appointment has obviously raised the legal and political stakes Trump takes, it is widely thought the president is unlikely to be impeached over the current political turmoil.

"Unlike in the Watergate case, there is no evidence that the president ordered witnesses to lie, destroyed evidence or tried to block FBI agents from doing their job," said John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Enditem