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'Single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history:' Trump

President Donald Trump listens as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump lashed out at the appointment of a special counsel to investigate accusations that his campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 US election, tweeting this morning that it is “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

In a surprise move yesterday, the US Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the investigation. Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers.

The announcement to hand the probe over to Mueller, a lawman with deep bipartisan respect, was a striking shift for Trump’s Justice Department, which had resisted increasingly loud calls from Democrats for an outside prosecutor.

It immediately escalated the legal stakes — and the potential political damage — for a president who has tried to dismiss the matter as partisan witch hunt and a “hoax.”

In another Twitter post today, Trump said: “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel (sic) appointed!” He did not provide examples or evidence of any “illegal acts.”

In a written statement late Wednesday, Trump insisted once again that there were no nefarious ties between his campaign and Russia. “A thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” he declared. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

Mueller’s broad mandate gives him not only oversight of the Russia 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.

Trump’s Twitter tirade comes as Reuters reports Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were, indeed, 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 news agency cites current and former US officials familiar with the exchanges and says the interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators.

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 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.