WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump denied emphatically Thursday that he asked now-ousted FBI Director James Comey to drop his probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump also called the notion of a special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation into Russian meddling part of a “witch hunt” and said he would name a new FBI director soon, confirming that former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was a top contender.
“No, no, next question,” the president told a reporter who asked whether he “in any way, shape or form” urged Comey to back off the Flynn probe.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Comey kept memos on his interactions with Trump — one of which details how the president requested that the FBI chief stop digging into Flynn. Multiple congressional committees have requested any memos and related communications and invited Comey to testify on Capitol Hill.
Flynn was forced to resign in February in part because he reportedly communicated with a Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions before Trump took office and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the timeline.
Trump is besieged by multiple Russia-related scandals that threaten to haunt him on his first trip abroad as president.
He repeated his case Thursday at a White House news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he did not collude with the Kremlin in last year’s U.S. election.
“Everybody, even my enemies, have said there is no collusion,” he said.
The president was critical of the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling and related matters.
Mueller, a former FBI director who also served in the Department of Justice under both Democratic and GOP presidents, was named to the post Wednesday to bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill.
“I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump said after earlier telling broadcast TV anchors: “It hurts our country terribly because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country.”
Trump told reporters he would announce a replacement for Comey very soon and confirmed Lieberman as a front-runner.
The former senator, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, interviewed for the FBI director’s job on Wednesday.
If nominated, he would be the first leader of the bureau who wasn’t a federal judge or prosecutor or an FBI agent.
Several GOP lawmakers welcomed the possibility of Lieberman at the helm of the FBI.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called him a “good choice” and “pillar of credibility.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC that Lieberman is “not only respected and admired, but beloved by all of us on both sides of the aisle.”