Donald Trump derides 'the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history'

  • 19/05/2017
Donald Trump (Reuters)
Donald Trump (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump has given his first news conference since the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign's alleged Russia links.

Mr Trump was asked about his overnight tweets, where he labelled the investigation a "witch hunt" on Twitter.

"Well I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. But I can always speak for myself and the Russians - zero.

"I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," Trump said.

"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."

He also reiterated his previous claim that the Democrats are using the Russia investigation as an "excuse."

Mr Trump wrote that the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's campaign were guilty of illegal acts, but never had a special counsel appointed.

The tweets come after revelations his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and others in his campaign, were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the US Presidential election and contacts between Mr Trump's campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Mr Trump's advisers, including Mr Flynn, Mr Trump's first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the November 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the US national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current US officials said.

In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.

The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far. But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Mr Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. Mr Flynn's lawyer declined to comment. In Moscow, a Russian foreign ministry official declined to comment on the contacts and referred Reuters to the Trump administration.

Separately, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington said: "We do not comment on our daily contacts with the local interlocutors."

The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016 as hackers engaged in what US intelligence concluded in January was part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit the vote and influence the outcome of the election in favour of Trump over his Democratic challenger, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Reuters / Newshub.