First Published: 2017-06-16

Trump derides ‘witch hunt’ against him in Russia probe
Angry US President decries being target of investigation in obstruction of justice.
Middle East Online

Trump: They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump responded angrily to reports he is under criminal investigation Thursday, deriding a "witch hunt" against him led by some "very bad" people.

Trump responded to reports he is personally being investigated for obstruction of justice with a characteristic scorched earth defense: claiming mistreatment of historic proportions and calling into question the probity of his accusers.

"You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people!" Trump said, in an early morning tweet.

Trump did not directly address the allegations that he is being probed for possibly obstructing justice -- a potentially impeachable offense. Nor did he deny he has entered the miniscule ranks of sitting presidents who have become the subject of a criminal investigation.

"They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice," he wrote.

Trump's young presidency has been battered by allegations -- under investigation both by Congress and the FBI -- that Russia interfered to sway the 2016 election in his favor, in possible collusion with Trump's campaign team.

The FBI probe, now in the hands of special prosecutor Robert Mueller, shifted its focus to allegations of obstruction in the days after Trump fired the agency's then director James Comey on May 9.

The new allegations against Trump center on his own admission that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, and suggestions he asked several top intelligence officials for their help altering the direction of the inquiry.

The widened Russia probe could have far-reaching repercussions for Trump's presidency, transforming his closest aides into witnesses and sucking yet more political oxygen out of the West Wing.

On Thursday an aide to Vice President Mike Pence revealed he was hiring Richard Cullen -- a veteran of the Iran-Contra investigation, Watergate and the 2000 vote recount in Florida -- as a private lawyer.

The latest White House crisis struck on the evening of Trump's 71st birthday, after a day in which he had won plaudits for his handling of the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise.

In an address to the country, Trump struck a notably less partisan tone in response to his first major domestic crisis.

Ditching derogatory rhetoric about the Washington "swamp", Trump rallied in support of his fellow politicians and called on the country to pull together.

"We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because, above all, they love our country," Trump said.

Trump's tweets virtually ensure that the political focus swings back to the Russia scandal.

- 'Inexcusable and illegal' -

The president has long vehemently denied any collusion with Moscow, either by himself or his associates.

But as the legal rope has tightened, Trump's allies have gone on the offensive, questioning the credibility of the special investigator Mueller, a respected former FBI director who served under Republican president George W. Bush.

Allies have even floated the idea that Mueller may be fired.

On Wednesday, Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz suggested -- without providing evidence -- that the FBI had leaked details of the criminal probe.

"The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal," Kasowitz said via a spokesman.

Trump also trained his fire on one-time rival Hillary Clinton.

"Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?" he wrote.

"Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, 'bleached' emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?"

Several top intelligence officials have agreed to be interviewed by Mueller's team, according to reports in both The Washington Post and New York Times.

The Post quoted five people briefed on the requests, saying those who agreed to be interviewed include national intelligence director Daniel Coats, Admiral Mike Rogers who heads the NSA, and his recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett.

Comey told Congress last week that before being sacked, Trump pressured him to drop an investigation into his former national security advisor, Mike Flynn, who was forced to quit for lying about his links to Moscow.

 

Qatar blocks planes from transporting pilgrims

Russia destroys large column of IS fighters in Syria

Erdogan says joint op with Iran against Kurds ‘on the agenda’

Barcelona attack fugitive ‘dangerous, possibly armed’ warn police

In Egypt, Syrian refugees recreate Syria

Spanish police shoot dead man who could be Barcelona attacker

Iraqi forces close in on last IS bastion in country’s north

Kuwait arrests 13 fugitives in Iran-linked terror case

Lebanese president ratifies public sector wage rise, tax hike

Young Syrian refugees want end of war and ISIS

Lebanon army advances against IS in border battle

Spanish police say driver of Barcelona rampage van identified

Toxic politics in Italy, Libya further complicate migration problem

Assad says no Syria ties for countries backing rebels

In African tour, Sisi seeks to rebuild ties, address security and water concerns

Syria’s transition scenarios for future rounds of talks

Iraqi Kurds may postpone referendum in return for concessions

Dubai real estate market sets the pace for renewed growth in the GCC

German-Turkish intellectual held at Ankara’s request

Jordan’s municipal elections marred by deaths, riots

Rouhani says top priority is protecting nuclear deal from US

Russia doubts IS claim of stabbing attack in northern city

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Erdogan meddles in German politics

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers