Trump denies Whitaker appointment seeks to block Russia probe


US President Donald Trump denied here Friday that the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general was a maneuver to end the investigation into alleged coordination between the president's campaign and the Kremlin in the 2016 elections.

"I didn't speak to Matt Whitaker about it," Trump told reporters, who asked him if he had discussed the possibility of ending the Russia investigation with the acting attorney general.

The president has been attempting to put an end to suspicions about the resignation on Wednesday, at his request, of Attorney General Jeff Sessions , whom Trump has recriminated for months for having recused himself from the Russia probe.

Trump said he did not know Whitaker, adding that he appointed him based on his intelligence and "great reputation."

"Matt Whitaker is a very smart man, he is a very respected man in the law enforcement community," Trump said.

"He's a very strong person, a very strong personality, and I think that's what they need," he added.

Sessions' ouster has raised suspicions among Democrats , who fear that the White House is attempting to find a way to end the Russia probe by appointing Whitaker as acting attorney general, a temporary position that does not require confirmation by the Senate.

Democrats in Congress have demanded an investigation into Sessions' resignation, while calling for the passing of legislation to protect the Russia probe.

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