Trump decries Russia probe as 'greatest witch hunt' in US history

The news agency cites current and former USA officials familiar with the exchanges and says the interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional investigators.

Mueller's broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russian Federation probe, but also "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation", which apparently include Trump's firing last week of FBI Director James Comey.

In a surprise move yesterday, the US Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the investigation.

President Donald Trump listens to questions from the media as he meets with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in the Oval Office on May 18, 2017.

President Donald Trump doubled down on his Wednesday comments about his alleged mistreatment by the American people in an early morning tweet on Thursday.

In some of the longest exchanges with reporters during a week filled with explosive headlines, including news that Comey had penned a memo documenting the president asking him to stop investigating Flynn, Trump said he thought the decision to fire Comey would be bipartisan, said repeatedly there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russian Federation, and attempted to spin it as a partisan distraction.

Trump fired Flynn in February from the key White House posting after routine US eavesdropping on foreign officials showed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington in the weeks before Trump assumed power in late January. Even the reporter that did the story hasn't seen them.

The conversations took place as U.S. intelligence agencies found evidence that Russian Federation interfered with the USA election to support Trump.

Rosenstein, the No 2 Justice Department official, named Mueller amid mounting pressure in Congress for an independent investigation beyond existing FBI and congressional probes into the Russian Federation issue. Trump has long bristled at the notion that Russian Federation played any role in his November election victory over Clinton.

"He knew the day before", Durbin said of Rosenstein.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Comey should still appear before congressional committees that have invited him to testify.

"Director Comey was very unpopular with most people".

During the course of Thursday's press conference, Trump said he fired Comey based on the recommendation made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Despite initially opposing appointment of an independent counsel, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the development "helps assure people and the Justice Department that they're going to go do their jobs independently and thoroughly, which is what we've called for all along".

"It's just not common that you go out and fire an FBI Director", he said.

"While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn", the White House said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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