SEARCH

Friday
May192017

Speaker Ryan: President Trump 'obviously' had a 'bad 2 weeks'

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan offered a blunt assessment of President Donald Trump's recent setbacks, saying in a radio interview Friday that he's had "a bad two weeks."

Appearing on Hugh Hewitt's show, Ryan brushed off the "white noise" of the controversies engulfing the administration, saying that he and his colleagues are remaining focused.

"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah is what I say about that stuff," said Ryan. "This is what I call the white noise of Washington-Beltway media. We're busy doing our work."

He later added: "If we keep our promises and do our work, I think people will reward us."

Asked about Trump's performance, Ryan said, "Obviously he clearly did have a bad two weeks."

"It's clearly my hope that he does ... right the ship, that he improves so that we can just get going," said the speaker.

Ryan said that he hopes the Senate passes health care by the August recess and added that he is concerned by the leak of a GOP leadership recording to The Washington Post in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, joked about Russian President Vladimir Putin paying Trump.

"I've never seen anything like this," he said. "That's a pretty bizarre thing to happen, so obviously that's a cause of concern of ours."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May192017

In nod to Comey story, aide shares video of Clinton avoiding hug

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a report emerged Thursday that fired FBI Director James Comey went to great lengths to avoid a hug from President Donald Trump in January, an aide to Hillary Clinton shared video Friday of the former Democratic presidential nominee practicing a way to do the same.

Philippe Reines, a Clinton adviser who stood in for Trump during the candidate's debate prep last year, posted a video on Twitter of the former secretary of state reaching for a handshake during one September prep session, while Reines, as Trump, opens his arms for an embrace.

Reines proceeds to wrap his arms around Clinton as she attempts to scamper away and laughter fills the room.

"Not easy to avoid the unwanted Trump hug, sometimes it even takes practice..." wrote Reines in the post.

Clinton responded with a tweet of her own later in the day: "I burst out laughing when I saw this video this morning. Hope it brightens your day."

On Thursday, The New York Times published a story quoting Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Comey's, who described the ex-FBI director's efforts during a White House reception.

"Comey said that as he was walking across the room he was determined that there wasn’t going to be a hug,” Wittes told the Times. “It was bad enough there was going to be a handshake. And Comey has long arms so Comey said he preemptively reached out for a handshake and grabbed the president’s hand. But Trump pulled him into an embrace and Comey didn’t reciprocate. If you look at the video, it’s one person shaking hands and another hugging.

The moment was captured on camera by ABC News.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May192017

Breaking down the tumultuous last 2 weeks in Washington 

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The departure of President Donald Trump on the first foreign trip of his term caps off arguably the most chaotic two-week period of his presidency.

From a big victory on Capitol Hill to controversial Senate testimony, unplanned disclosures and special counsel appointments, the period from May 4 through now has been a bumpy one.

Here is a rundown of the biggest stories out of Washington, D.C., from the past two weeks.

May 4: Health care bill passes the House

House Republicans passed what they've described as their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, after several fits and starts, sending the measure to the Senate, where it is expected to be significantly revised.

The bill passed the House in a narrow 217-213 vote. All Democrats opposed the bill.

Following the House vote, House Republicans celebrated with a press conference at the White House Rose Garden where Trump touted the bill as a "great plan" even though they got "no support from the other party."

"What we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted," Trump said of the bill.

May 8: Yates testifies that Flynn was compromised

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified that she informed the White House counsel that the Department of Justice believed that then–national security adviser Michael Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russian government.

Yates, who drew the ire of Trump for issuing instructions to the Department of Justice not to defend his first travel ban executive order, said during her testimony that she had two in-person meetings with White House Counsel Don McGahn to discuss concerns about Flynn.

Referring to the DOJ, she said, "We believed Gen. Flynn was compromised in regards to the Russians."

Yates said that not only was his conduct "problematic in it of itself" but also that Vice President Mike Pence and the American people had been misled.

"To state the obvious, you don't want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians," she said.

That same day, now-former FBI Director James Comey briefed some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had asked for more money and staffing from the DOJ. Comey’s request was made directly to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein -- the man who would recommend his firing.

May 9: Comey fired

Rosenstein wrote a memorandum, dated May 9, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, criticizing Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as well as his July 5 press conference on the FBI’s findings in the Clinton probe.

“I cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote.

Shortly after 5 p.m. ET that day, Trump called several members of Congress to inform them of his decision to fire Comey.

Around 5:40 p.m., news broke that Comey had been fired. A statement from the White House said that Trump informed Comey he had been “terminated and removed from office” and the search for a new FBI director will “begin immediately.” Trump also wrote that Comey assured three times that he was not under investigation.

A White House official confirmed to ABC News that Keith Schiller, the president's longtime bodyguard and Oval Office director of operations, hand-delivered Trump's termination letter to FBI headquarters.

Comey, who was in Los Angeles for bureau travel, learned of his firing from TV reports. The letter from Trump was read to him over the phone, two FBI sources told ABC News. Comey was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a recruitment event that evening but canceled his speech.

May 11: Trump says he planned to fire Comey ahead of the DOJ recommendation

During an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump contradicted previous White House statements on Comey’s firing, saying that he planned on firing him regardless of what the DOJ suggested. (Spicer had said letters written by Rosenstein and Sessions convinced Trump to fire Comey.)

“I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said.

Trump went on to say Comey is “a showboat, he’s a grandstander,” and that the FBI has been in “virtual turmoil.”

He also reiterated the claim that Comey had told Trump three times that he was not under investigation -- a claim first made publicly in Comey’s dismissal letter.

"I said, 'If it's possible would you let me know, am I under investigation?' He said, 'You are not under investigation,’” Trump said in the NBC interview.

Later that day, The New York Times reported that two Comey associates said Trump asked for a pledge of loyalty from the FBI director.

May 12: Trump tweets veiled threat to leak ‘tapes’

Trump went on a Twitter tear, taking aim at both the media and Comey.

“James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” he wrote.

He also said that "it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy" because he is so active as president, and then threatened to end press briefings altogether.

"Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???" he tweeted.

May 13: Trump denies the Times' reporting on the loyalty pledge

"I didn't ask that question," Trump said in an interview with Fox News' Jeanine Pirro that aired May 13. Trump added, however, that it "wouldn’t be a bad question to ask."

May 15: Report alleges Trump shared confidential information with Russians

This past Monday kicked off an especially fraught week for the White House, beginning with the report that Trump shared classified information with Russian officials while they met at the White House on May 10.

The Washington Post first reported the news, and while a number of White House surrogates at first denied the entirety of the story, the specifics of those denials changed over time.

May 16: Comey's paper trail revealed, memo says Trump told him to stand down

Trump started the day by seemingly admitting that he did share some information with the Russian officials but denied any wrongdoing.

"As president I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism," he wrote in two tweets.

A major concern that was raised in the wake of the disclosure was whether or not Trump’s revelations put the source of the information and the methods of collection in jeopardy. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who replaced Flynn after he resigned in February, said that Trump “wasn’t even aware” where the information came from when he shared it. Israel was later confirmed to be the source of the intelligence.

Later that same day, reports of a memo that Comey wrote shortly after a Jan. 22 meeting with Trump surfaced. The memo, which purportedly said that Comey was asked by the president to drop the bureau's investigation into Flynn, was first reported by The New York Times. Details of its contents were later confirmed to ABC News by sources close to Comey.

In the memo, which Comey shared with top FBI associates, he wrote that Trump said, "I hope you can let this go," referring to the inquiry into Flynn's actions. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," said Trump, according to a source who read the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Multiple sources who worked closely with Comey, including at the DOJ, say he is known for his contemporaneous and thorough note-taking. "He documents everything," one source said.

May 17: Special counsel named in Russia probe

The DOJ announced Wednesday that a special counsel has been appointed to investigate Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was assigned by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to "oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and related matters."

Mueller will have 60 days to put together a budget for resources to conduct the investigation and that budget must be approved by Rosenstein, as Sessions previously recused himself from all matters related to the presidential campaign.

May 18: Pence stands by earlier statements

Pence stood by his March claim that he learned of Flynn's lobbying for the first time through news reports of his ties to Turkey, despite a May 17 New York Times report that Flynn informed the transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for those lobbying ties.

May 19: Trump heads for his first foreign trip

Trump left on the first foreign trip of his presidency this afternoon, with the first stop scheduled in Saudi Arabia. Over the course of the roughly weeklong trip, Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy before returning to the U.S. on May 27.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May192017

Latest CBO health care analysis to be released next week

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will release its analysis of the House-passed GOP health care bill next Wednesday afternoon, the agency announced on Twitter Friday.

The CBO's estimate will analyze the proposed impact of the legislation on the federal deficit and the number of people with health insurance.

Previous CBO reports on earlier versions of the bill projected that 24 million fewer people would have insurance over 10 years with the GOP bill compared to Obamacare.

The estimate also projected the legislation would lower the deficit by nearly $340 billion over 10 years through limiting federal subsidies and Medicaid spending.

The House passed the bill with one vote to spare earlier this month, but has yet to send the bill to the Senate.

"We just want to, out of an abundance of caution, wait to send the bill over to the Senate when we get the final score," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said Friday in an interview with Hugh Hewitt.

If the CBO finds that the bill doesn't save at least $2 billion over 10 years, the Senate would need 60 votes to pass the bill, not the 51 GOP leaders and the White House are banking on through the reconciliation process.

If Republicans need to make any changes -- which GOP leadership aides say is unlikely -- it's easier to do that when the bill is still on the House side.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May192017

Deputy attorney general stands by memo, but says Comey was going to be fired anyway

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told members of Congress that his memo to President Trump detailing concerns about James Comey's actions as FBI director was “not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination” of Comey.

The White House initially cited Rosenstein's memo as the basis for Trump's sudden dismissal of the FBI director on May 9.

The deputy attorney general stood by the contents of his memo in his comments to Congress on Thursday, maintaining his disagreement with Comey's actions in relation to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails as secretary of state, according to Rosenstein's prepared opening statement to both the House and Senate.

"I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it," Rosenstein said in his two separate briefings on Comey’s firing, one to the Senate yesterday and the other to the House Friday. “Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader,”

Rosenstein said he first learned of Trump’s intent to remove Comey on May 8. The next day, Comey was dismissed and the deputy attorney general sent his memo to the president who, Rosenstein said, had “sought [his] advice and input.”

In his letter to Comey on May 9, the president cited Rosenstein's memo in his dismissal of the FBI director whose agency was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.

In the two days that followed, White House officials and Vice President Mike Pence said Trump was acting on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. But Trump later changed this account. In an interview two days after the firing, Trump told NBC he had been planning to terminate Comey regardless and was thinking of Russia when he made that decision.

Rosenstein in his remarks to Congress Friday echoed the contents of the memo he sent to Trump in his criticism of the former FBI chief's handling of the Clinton email probe, including Comey's press conference last July about the investigation.

"I thought the July 5 press conference was profoundly wrong and unfair both to the Department of Justice and Secretary Clinton," said Rosenstein, adding, "It violated deeply ingrained rules and traditions, and it guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election."

The deputy attorney general described listening to Comey's rationale for his public statement about the probe when he attended a training seminar in October 2016, and continued to disagree "with his analysis." Rosenstein added, though, "I believe that he made his decisions in good faith."

The day after that seminar, on Oct. 28, Comey disclosed to Congress that the bureau was continuing its investigation of Clinton's emails in light of new evidence. Rosenstein also expressed discomfort with that disclosure.

Rosenstein further told Congress that discussions between him and Jeff Sessions about "the need for new leadership at the FBI" began in one of their first meetings last winter, when Sessions was still a senator and before his confirmation as the new attorney general.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May192017

President Trump to embark on first foreign trip as president

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will leave Friday afternoon on his first international trip since taking office, a five-country journey to meet with some of the most important figures in the Middle East and Europe.

Trump is bucking tradition by journeying away from North America for his first foreign trek -- the past five presidents all visited U.S. neighbors Canada or Mexico as their first venture abroad.

The president's first stop will be in Saudi Arabia, before continuing to Israel, Italy, Vatican City and Belgium. Along the way he will meet with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Pope Francis, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, King Philippe of Belgium and the leaders of the G7 countries, among others.

Earlier this month, an administration official portrayed the decision to first visit Saudi Arabia -- home to two of Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina -- as symbolic.

"We thought that was very important because, obviously, people have tried to portray the president in a certain way, but I think that what he wants to do is solve the same problem that a lot of the leaders in the Islamic world want to do," a senior administration official told ABC News.

Pope Francis commented on Trump's visit last weekend, saying that he would not judge the controversial president despite diverging views on a number of issues, including climate change and immigration.

"I will tell him what I think, he will tell me what he thinks, but I never wanted to judge someone before I listen to the person first," said the pope.

The trip will conclude with the president meeting NATO leaders and attending a G7 summit. Trump has previously met with all of the G7 leaders except French President Emmanuel Macron, who took office within the last week.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May182017

What the White House has said about special prosecutors

Ablestock.com/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- News that the Department of Justice appointed a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to lead the Russia probe rocked Washington.

Many who had been asking for an independent voice in the matter applauded the move and Trump himself reportedly had a measured reaction at first.

But Thursday morning, Trump lashed out on Twitter, calling it the "single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

Later in the day, he told ABC News' David Muir it "hurts our country terribly" while at a press conference with the Colombian president, he said "I respect the move."

Here's a look back at what the administration has said about special counsel (often referred to as special prosecutors), from the Russia investigation to Hillary Clinton:

Earlier this week, during the daily press briefing on May 15, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said a special prosecutor wasn't needed to look into the Russia investigation.

"There’s, frankly, no need for a special prosecutor. We’ve discussed this before," Spicer said. "You have two Senate committees that are looking into this. The FBI is conducting their own review.
And I think if you even look at what Acting Director [Andrew] McCabe said last week, he made it very clear that they had the resources that they need and that the work continues."

"It’s been made very clear that there’s been, with respect to the President himself, both Senator [Chuck] Schumer, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein, Senator [Joe] Manchin and everyone else who have been
briefed on this, have been very clear that there was no collusion with respect to the President himself and no investigation there," he added.

Days earlier, on May 10, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters "we don't think it's necessary" to appoint a special prosecutor.

"You've got the deputy attorney general, who I would say is about as independent as it comes, due to the fact that he has such bipartisan support," she said, as well as "a House committee, a Senate
committee and the Department of Justice all working on this."

"I don't think that there's a necessary need at this point to add that," Sanders said.

At the Feb. 27 press briefing, Spicer said, "I think that Russia's involvement in activity has been investigated up and down."

"I think that both the House and the Senate have looked at it. ... the intelligence community has looked at it, as well," Spicer said. "So the question becomes at some point, if there's nothing to
further investigate, what are you asking people to investigate?"

"The President has spoken forcefully time and time again that he has no interests in Russia, he hasn’t talked to people in Russia in years, and yet you keep asking," Spicer said. "What do you need
to further investigate if there is nothing that has come out?"

One day earlier, Sanders told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," "I don't think we're there yet" for potentially appointing a special prosecutor.

"Typically, you go through a congressional oversight review. We're doing that," she said. "Let's not go to the very end of the extreme. Let's let this play out the way it should."

Sanders said on "This Week" that Congress should complete its review first, which she said she is confident will show that Trump associates had not involvement in Russia's actions.

"Whatever review that Congress wants to do, I think that's the first step," she said. "There are two committees that are currently doing that. We're extremely confident that, whatever review,
they're all going to come to the same conclusion -- that we had no involvement in this."

Sanders also suggested that a Russia probe is not something "that the American people care about."

"At some point, we get to a place where we've got to move on and start focusing on the things that the American people care about, and I don't think this is it," she said.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to instruct a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton if he won.

In August, Trump said to an enthusiastic crowd that a special prosecutor must take over the investigation into his Democratic rival's emails.

"After the FBI and Department of Justice whitewashed Hillary Clinton’s email crimes, they certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s new crimes," Trump
said. "The Justice Department is required to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor because it has proven itself to be really, sadly a political arm of the White House.”

During the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, Trump said to Clinton, "I hate to say it but, if I win, I am going to instruct my Attorney General to get a special prosecutor to look into your
situation. Because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it. And we’re going to have a special prosecutor.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May182017

Interior Dept. nominee says Trump's views could outweigh climate science

alphaspirit/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior said on Thursday that Trump's economic policy could be take priority over climate science.

In his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, David Bernhardt said that he will consider science on climate change but that Trump's policy opinions that prioritize jobs could outweigh scientific conclusions.

In response to questions from Sen. Al Franken about how he views climate science, Bernhardt said he would look at new science but that "we're absolutely going to follow the policy perspectives of the president."

"Here's the reality, we're going to look at the science whatever it is, but policy decisions are made, this president ran, he won on a particular policy perspective," Bernhardt said after more questions from Franken.

"That perspective's not gonna change to the extent that we have the discretion under the law to follow it. In some instances we might not but in the instances that we do we're absolutely going to follow the policy perspective of the president. And here's why, that's the way our republic works and he is the president," he added.

Trump has said that he will bring back jobs in the coal industry and roll back environmental regulations put in place under President Barack Obama.

Bernhardt also pushed back on claims that scientists at the agency are under attack. The department suspended multiple advisory councils earlier this month. Sen. Debbie Stabenow asked Bernhardt about reports that scientists are "under attack" throughout the administration and whether he will honor recommendations by agency scientists.

"I would say first that I am certain that scientists at the Department of Interior are not under attack," Bernhardt replied.

Bernhardt held multiple positions at the Interior Department between 2001 and 2009, including as solicitor for the department.

More than 100 environmental groups wrote to senators earlier this week asking them to oppose Bernhardt's nomination, citing concerns about conflicts of interest from his work as a lobbyist and inspector general reports from during the time that Bernhardt was solicitor, including one that found that department staff had presented misleading data in a report.

The committee's chair, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said she wanted to move Bernhardt quickly through the confirmation process at the end of today's hearing, calling him a "valuable asset to the team."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May182017

Pence maintains he was unaware of Flynn's lobbying ties during transition

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Mike Pence is standing by his claim in March that he first learned of Mike Flynn's foreign lobbying from news reports, despite the revelation that the Trump transition team was notified before inauguration that Flynn was under federal investigation for those lobbying ties.

The New York Times reported that Flynn had informed now-White House counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 4 and Flynn's lawyers had informed Trump's transition lawyers a second time after that. By then, Flynn had already been chosen as Trump's national security adviser and Pence was head of Trump's transition team.

"The Vice President stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn's tied to Turkey and fully supports the President's decision to ask for General Flynn's investigation," a spokesperson for the vice president said on Thursday.

In a March interview with Fox News, Pence said it was the first time he was hearing of Flynn's lobbying ties.

"Let me say hearing that story today was the first I heard of it and I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn's resignation," Pence said, adding he's "disappointed."

Flynn's lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, did lobbying work in the months leading up to his White House appointment that may have benefited the Turkish government, according to paperwork filed with the Justice Department in March on behalf of Flynn and his firm.

The March filing indicated a payment of $530,000 for lobbying work he did in 2016 for a Dutch company that "could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey."

Flynn resigned on Feb. 13 after it was revealed he had misled the Vice President and other Trump administration officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May182017

Trump denies telling Comey to back off, bashes former FBI director

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump flatly denied that he asked former FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation into Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Throughout a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump repeated multiple times his claim that there was no collusion between himself and Russia during the campaign.

"There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians, zero," Trump told ABC News' Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.

"Believe me -- there's no collusion. Russia is fine, but whether it is Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America," Trump added.

He later reiterated: "There was no collusion, and everybody -- even my enemies have said, there is no collusion. So we want to get back and keep on the track that we're on."

Trump said that Comey "was very unpopular with most people" and said that he was expecting more widespread praise for the firing.

"But when I made that decision, I actually thought it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey," Trump said.

"We need a great director of the FBI. I cherish the FBI. It is special. All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special. The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say directly or indirectly with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign," he said.

Trump also said he "respects" the decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, but he didn't distance himself from his earlier description of the situation as "a witch hunt."

"I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt," Trump said.

He said that he thinks the appointment of a special counsel "divides the country."

"We want to bring this great country of ours together," he continued. "We have to get back to running this country really, really well."

Today marked the first time since the appointment of a special counsel that Trump publicly addressed Comey's firing and the subsequent news of a memo written by the ex-FBI director.

In the memo, which ABC News has not seen, Comey wrote that he was asked by the president to let the Flynn probe go in February. "I hope you can let this go," referring to the inquiry into Flynn's actions. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," said Trump, according to a source who read the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

When Santos was asked if he had any suggestions for Trump on how to weather bad press, he demurred.

"I don't think I'm in a position to give any advice to President Trump. He can take care of himself," the Colombian president said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio