U.S. President Donald Trump says that an investigation touching on whether he tried to obstruct justice stems from what he asserts is a "phony story" about possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Trump made the remark on Twitter on June 15, a day after The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert Mueller -- who has been investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether there was any collusion by Trump's campaign -- is now also examining whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.
"They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice," Trump tweeted.
In a subsequent tweet, Trump wrote, "You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history -- led by some very bad and conflicted people!"
In Russia, meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin repeated a denial that Moscow interfered in the U.S. election -- and made mocking remarks about former FBI Director James Comey during a nationally televised call-in show.
Comey, who was fired by Trump in May, testified in a Senate hearing last week that he believes his dismissal was an attempt to exert influence on the investigation into alleged Russian interference and possible collusion. Comey has also said Trump asked him to drop an investigation into ties between Michael Flynn, who advised Trump during the campaign and briefly served as national security adviser after Trump's inauguration, and Russian officials.
In January, the U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment that Putin "ordered an influence campaign" aimed at the U.S. presidential election, with goals including undermining faith in the U.S. democratic system, denigrating Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, and improving Trump's chances of winning the presidency.
Trump has denied any collusion between himself or any of his associates and Russia, and Putin has denied that Moscow sought to interfere in the election.
Putin repeated that denial -- and took at aim at Comey -- during the tightly choreographed Direct LIne program on June 15.
Responding to a question phoned in by a U.S. man from the state of Arizona, Putin said that Comey's testimony did not include any evidence that Russia meddled in the election.
He said that is was "very strange" for Comey to relay the content of conversations with Trump and likened Comey to Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who fled the United States after leaking details of extensive surveillance activities by U.S. intelligence and who has lived since 2013 in Russia, where he has been granted asylum.
Noting that Comey had "made a record of a conversation with the commander in chief" and then conveyed it to the media through a friend, Putin said: "If this is so, then there is no difference between Comey and Snowden as he is then a rights defender" -- a term he has used in the past to describe Snowden.
"By the way, if he faces any kind of persecution in this regard, we are ready to provide him with political asylum in Russia," he said wryly of Comey. "He has to know this."