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President Donald Trump said Thursday he thinks the appointment of special counsel for the Russia investigation is bad for the United States.
"I believe it hurts our country
Trump made his comments during a lunch with reporters and TV anchors.
"It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats
On Wednesday, Justice Department officials announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had tapped former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel, taking over the investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election.
After the announcement, the White House issued a measured statement on the president's behalf:
"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. 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."
But Thursday morning, Trump tweeted a more aggressive tone, calling the investigation into potential ties between Russia and his presidential campaign a "witch hunt," a sentiment he reiterated later Thursday during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Trump also asked why no special counsel was appointed for what he called "all of the illegal acts" of Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Obama administration.
In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 78 percent of respondents said they would rather see the investigation led by an independent commission or special prosecutor, versus one led by Congress.
— NBC News and CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.