Trump denies urging former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief to drop Flynn inquiry

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi

Pressed on whether he asked Comey to quash an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn's foreign contacts, Trump grew testy.

Asked during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos whether he agreed with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate possible ties with Moscow, Trump was resolute.

Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the probe on Wednesday, in an escalation of the investigation that Trump called "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

Trump said later, however, that he had been thinking about "this Russian Federation thing" when he fired Comey, whom he called a "showboat" and a "grandstander" in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt last Thursday.

Asked point-blank if he'd done anything that might merit prosecution or even impeachment, Trump said no - and then added of the lingering allegations and questions: "I think it's totally ridiculous".

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Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal also told reporters that Mueller was conducting a criminal investigation, including into whether there was any obstruction of justice on behalf of Trump's campaign team. Last week in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, he claimed he had been planning to fire Comey and called him a "grandstander".

A Republican strategist close to the White House said Trump needed a strong trip to help put the past tumultuous 10 days behind him. "Russian Federation is fine, but whether it is Russian Federation or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America", Trump added. "I think it's a very hard challenge and I hope he's going to talk to a lot of smart people". "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", Trump said. It is special. All over the world, no matter where you go, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is special.

Meanwhile, intelligence community veterans anxious that sharing intelligence gleaned from a USA ally without their permission could endanger sources on the ground and make countries less willing to share intel with Washington.

Although Flynn didn't specify how he received that message from Trump, it plays into the larger scandal involving Trump allegedly asking Comey to "let this go", in reference to the ongoing FBI investigation into Flynn. "He is a good guy".

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. "He can take care of himself", Santos said.

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