The week of bombshell news continues with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to pick up the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.
President Donald Trump has been on the defense amid the fallout from explosive reports that he urged James Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The president tweeted Thursday morning that he's a victim of a "witch hunt."
Asked whether he pressured the FBI to close its investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — as was reported earlier this week — President Donald Trump flatly said he had not.
"No, no. Next question," he said, speaking at a press conference with the Colombian president.
Asked if he thought he had committed a crime or impeachable offense, the president said "it's totally ridiculous, everyone thinks so."
In some of the longest exchanges with reporters during a week filled with explosive headlines, including news that Comey had penned a memo documenting the president asking him to stop investigating Flynn, Trump said he thought the decision to fire Comey would be bipartisan, said repeatedly there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russia, and attempted to spin it as a partisan distraction.
Trump also boasted of what he saw as the “tremendous success” of his presidency.
“That’s what I want to be focused on, because there’s no collusion. Believe me. My total priority is the United States of America,” Trump said.
Two senators confirmed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein knew that FBI director James Comey would be fired when he penned a memo that the White House initially used to justify Comey's dismissal.
But the president later contradicted his own administration's narrative, telling NBC News he'd been wanting to fire Comey since the election, and that the Russia investigation was a factor.
Rosenstein "acknowledged that he learned Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo," Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said after a closed-door briefing with Rosenstein.
In his first discussion with reporters since the Department of Justice appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation into Russian election interference, President Donald Trump condemned the decision and spun it as a political "excuse" during a White House lunch with news anchors.
"I believe it hurts our country terribly, 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.
It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats 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 shows division, and it shows that we're not together as a country. And I think it's a very, very negative thing. 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."
Senators are heading into an all-Senate briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein this afternoon, where both parties will be able to hear from the man whose memo was initially crediting for the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
The meeting is behind closed doors, but it may help senators better understand the lead-up to Comey's ouster. The White House initially said that the president had fired Comey at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein, who wrote a memo hanging the recommendation on Comey's alleged mismanagement of the bureau's Hillary Clinton email investigation. But in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt, Trump reversed the official explanation by saying he’d been wanting to fire the FBI director since he was elected — and gave Russia as the rationale.
"When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story," Trump told Holt.
Rosenstein will give a similar briefing to the House tomorrow.
Amid a week of explosive headlines with talk of impeachment swirling, the Trump reelection team is in fundraising mode.
After crying "sabotage" in email and text fundraising messages yesterday, the campaign cashed in, raising $314,000 between the campaign and Republican National Committee's joint fundraising committee. According to a release from Trump's campaign, it's a "one-day record for digital fundraising."
Meanwhile, House Democrats announced that their campaign arm has smashed fundraising records ahead of midterms, raising $20 million since the start of the year.
A top Republican has clarified that while former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn hasn't yet cooperated with the Senate Intelligence Committee, his lawyers have "not yet indicated their intentions" regarding a subpoena issued last week for documents relevant to the panel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
North Carolina Republican and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr made the clarification after earlier asserting the committee believed he was refusing to comply with the Congressional subpoena. He said this was not a surprise, as Flynn had been giving the committee radio silence on previous requests even before the subpoena was issued last week.
The committee has heard from fired FBI Director James Comey, but has not yet received documents from him.
- Frank Thorp, Marianna Sotomayor, Vaughn Hillyard
House Speaker Paul Ryan wants everyone to know that the turmoil currently roiling the White House will not imperil Congress from tackling the issues.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a press conference, attempting to turn the conversation back to the GOP agenda.
He didn’t get far: a reporter asked if he’d prefer to be working with Vice President Mike Pence.
“Good grief,” Ryan said, refusing to answer the question.
Leading Republicans are struggling to defend the president's decision to hire Michael Flynn as national security adviser in the wake of news that Flynn had warned the transition team he was under federal investigation.
Here, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz is pressed on the matter not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times, before finally conceding that Flynn "probably shouldn't have" been hired.
Looks like Russia isn't the only story of the day.
News broke Thursday morning that former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes had died. The TV mogul left the company he built earlier this year in the wake of a former anchor’s lawsuit and numerous allegations of sexual harassment.
The cause of death is not yet known publicly.
“I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning surrounded by his beautiful family,” wife Elizabeth Ailes said in a statement.
Did you sleep last night? Well, then you might have missed a lot of news, because this media storm isn’t taking a break.
Here are the must-read stories you might have missed overnight.
"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!" the president Tweeted this morning. (And it's spelled "counsel," by the way.)
A survivor of one of the more contentious periods in recent U.S. political history, Mueller, 72, commands rare bipartisan support for someone who has been so prominent in national affairs for so long.
"Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies."