Appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate whether Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is harmful to the nation, President Donald Trump said on May 18.
"I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," the president said during a lunch with members of the media, according to CNBC. "And we have very important things to be doing right now, whether it's trade deals, whether it's military, whether it's stopping nuclear -- all of the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country."
The U.S. Department of Justice announced on May 17 that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein selected Mueller to lead the probe.
"It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way," added Trump. "That's all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we're not together as a country. And I think it's a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we're going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world."
On Twitter on May 18, the president referred to the Russia probe as a "witch hunt." He then reiterated his stance during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos later that day.
"I respect the move," Trump said of the investigation while speaking to the media, according to The Hill. "But the entire thing has been a witch hunt."
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have supported the move to appoint Mueller. Trump said he was "fine with whatever people want to do," but he hopes to "get back to running this country really, really well," The Guardian reports.
"Believe me, there's no collusion," he added, according to Politico. "Russia is fine."
The president also released a statement on the matter via the White House shortly after the announcement of Rosenstein's selection.
"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know -- there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity," the statement said, according to CNBC. "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."