Russia Probe Heats Up as Trump Tries to Limit Damage

Grand jury subpoena shows prosecutors focusing in part on Michael Flynn’s work for Turkish interests

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Updated May 18, 2017 10:55 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said Thursday that an investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to Russia is a “witch hunt” and should be quickly brought to a close, but the appointment of a special counsel and recent grand jury subpoenas suggest a federal criminal probe is expanding to include other suspicious activity and countries.

“We look forward to getting this whole situation behind us,” said Mr. Trump, denying that he had urged James Comey, the recently fired director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to ease off an investigation of his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

But the investigation is now expanding beyond assessing whether associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

A grand jury subpoena issued to a business associate of Mr. Flynn by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal shows that federal prosecutors are focusing in part on work Mr. Flynn undertook for Turkish interests, which he didn’t disclose in full until weeks after his resignation from the White House.

The subpoena that the Journal reviewed was sent out in early April, nearly a month before Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, raising questions about whether the president learned the investigation into Mr. Flynn was escalating before firing Mr. Comey, who was overseeing the probe.

Mr. Trump said at a news conference with the visiting Colombian president that he didn’t ask Mr. Comey to back off his probe into Mr. Flynn, as people close to the former FBI director have suggested.

Media outlets reported earlier this week that Mr. Trump made the request of Mr. Comey during a private meeting in February, citing notes Mr. Comey made at the time. Those reports came a week after Mr. Trump had abruptly fired Mr. Comey. Congressional investigators have demanded copies of those notes and asked Mr. Comey to testify about them.

Mr. Trump’s comments Thursday were his first on the Comey account; previous denials had come from the White House.

On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller III as special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 election and the country’s possible links to Mr. Trump’s campaign and associates.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Mr. Trump called the investigations “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

But at the press conference, Mr. Trump expressed mixed feelings about the matter. “I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” he said, referring to the appointment of a special counsel.

Responding to a reporter’s question, he also said any talk of impeachment is “totally ridiculous.”

The president said that the Russia inquiry “divides the country,” but offered a toned-down message than he had in earlier tweets and comments.

“I’m fine with what everyone wants to do, but we have to get back to running this country,” he said.

Mr. Trump continued to criticize Mr. Comey and cited the former director’s “very poor performance” in a Senate hearing two weeks ago. He also cited the “very strong recommendation” from Mr. Rosenstein in deciding to fire Mr. Comey.

That Rosenstein memo was initially cited by the White House as the basis for Mr. Comey’s removal, but Mr. Trump later said he had decided on the firing even before the memo was finished.

Mr. Rosenstein, speaking on Thursday to a closed-door meeting of the entire Senate, disclosed that he had been aware of Mr. Trump’s plans to fire Mr. Comey even before he wrote the memo justifying the firing, several senators in the briefing said.

Under repeated questioning from senators, Mr. Rosenstein declined to answer additional questions about why and how he wrote the Comey firing memo, saying those issues should be in the province of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

 Image result for Lindsey Graham, May 18, 2017, photos
Senators React to Special Counsel Appointment
Video: https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-probe-heats-up-as-trump-tries-to-limit-damage-1495156529
Senators react after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein briefed them on the appointment of a special counsel to handle the investigation of Russia potentially hacking the 2016 presidential election. Photo: Getty
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“We must have asked that question 25 different ways,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.). But, he said, Mr. Rosenstein “declined to answer in any meaningful way questions about the process that led to the decision to fire Jim Comey, the preparation of his memo, who he consulted, who told him to prepare it.”

At his press conference Thursday, Mr. Trump also reiterated his position that he never colluded with Russia during last year’s election.

​“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign…I can always speak for myself and the Russians—zero,” he said. “Believe me, there’s no collusion.”

Write to Eli Stokols at eli.stokols@wsj.com, Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com and Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com

Appeared in the May. 19, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Pushes Back As Probe Expands.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-probe-heats-up-as-trump-tries-to-limit-damage-1495156529

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One Response to “Russia Probe Heats Up as Trump Tries to Limit Damage”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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