Senator Lindsey Graham said Thursday (18 May) that the federal probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election seems to be a criminal investigation. The remarks were made shortly after the Senate met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

"It seems to me now to be considered a criminal investigation," the South Carolina senator said to reporters, according to The Hill.

Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as the special counsel to investigate any potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Graham noted that the creation of the special counsel by Rosenstein will likely impede the congressional investigations.

"I think a lot of members want the special counsel to be appointed but don't understand that you're pretty well knocked out of the game," Graham said. "And that's probably the way it should be."

Fellow South Carolina Republican, Senator Tim Scott noted that the special counsel will "get rid of the smoke and see where the actual issues lie," the Associated Press (AP) reported. "I do think that the special prosecutor provides a sense of calm and confidence perhaps for the American people, which is incredibly important," Scott said.

However, President Donald Trump is completely against the appointment of a special counsel. In a briefing with reporters, Trump said the appointment "hurts our country terribly". According to the AP, the president said it "shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not unified country" and is "a very, very negative thing."

Trump has repeatedly maintained there has been "no collusion" between his campaign and Moscow. During a joint news conference with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump called the probe a distraction. "Well I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt," he said.

Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) makes a point as he questions US Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on 22 March 2017 REUTERS/Jim Bourg