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Trump denies ever urging Comey to back off Flynn investigation

19 May 2017

President Trump adamantly denied that he asked then-FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating his close ally on Thursday. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go", said Trump, according to a source who read the memo. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

President Trump delivers remarks during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House on Thursday.

The committee is one of several on Capitol Hill investigating possible collusion between Russian Federation and President Trump's 2016 campaign. President Donald Trump was about to get the question - the one he'd avoided for almost 48 hours but could no longer.

One Republican official, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, said after meeting Trump recently he did not think the president had a firm enough grasp on the nuances of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Across town, Rosenstein was briefing the Senate about his decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the independent Trump-Russia probe.

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He said he respected the special counsel appointment but also said it "hurts our country terribly". Trump wrote on Thursday morning.

The men were memorably cast - mostly via Comey's 2007 testimony - as honorable men standing against government overreach when they talked former President George W. Bush out of pushing ahead the renewal of a controversial surveillance program.

"This is a truth hunt", said Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar.

He repeatedly denied collusion with Russian Federation, an idea he said even his enemies support.

To hear Trump tell it, he wasn't anxious. "I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things".

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Afterwards, Republican senator Lindsey Graham told reporters that "everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation".

But the lingering question hanging over the press conference was what the appointment of Mueller meant for his presidency. That was the White House's position initially after the deputy attorney general argued in a memo that Comey had erred in handling the FBI's investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's private email server, even though Trump had praised Comey on the campaign trail a year ago.

The president on Thursday muddled his explanation for firing Comey last week, saying he ousted him because he was "very unpopular with most people". It cited two people briefed on the call.

One striking piece of news emerged from Rosenstein's briefing: He told senators that he had already known Comey was getting fired even as he wrote the memo that Trump cited as a significant justification for the Federal Bureau of Investigation director's dismissal.

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Trump denies ever urging Comey to back off Flynn investigation