WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US will be badly hurt by the naming of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“I believe it hurts our country terribly,” said Trump in a quote reported by NBC, “because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not unified country.”
“And we have very important things to be doing right now – whether it’s trade deals, whether it’s military, whether it’s stopping nuclear – all of the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country,” Trump told a group of news anchors and other journalists with the main US television networks.
The president also suggested that the investigation now being headed by Mueller was motivated by an attempt by Democrats to explain away “having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way. That’s all this is.”
“I think it’s a very, very negative thing,” the president added. “And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we’re going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world.”
Trump’s position on the matter stands in direct contrast with the posture of almost all lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, who have received Mueller’s appointment favorably.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump had called the naming of Mueller as special prosecutor to head the investigation into his campaign’s Russia links a “witch hunt.”
“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” said Trump on his Twitter account.
On Wednesday, in a statement released by the White House, Trump said that “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.”
The appointment of Mueller, who headed the FBI from 2001-2013, was announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has authority over the Russia probe due to the decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself because of his role in the Trump campaign.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination,” Rosenstein said in a statement.
“What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, 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,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers for weeks have been calling for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to head the investigation, particularly since Trump abruptly fired former FBI chief James Comey last week in the middle of the agency’s probe into Russia’s involvement in the US elections and the Kremlin’s links with the mogul’s presidential campaign.
On Thursday, Rosenstein informed the Senate in a closed-door session about Trump’s controversial decision to dump Comey.