Trump sidesteps Russia inquiry at Kentucky rally

PHOTO: President Donald Trump holds a rally in Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Exposition Center, March 20, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. PlayBill Pugliano/Getty Images
WATCH Donald Trump avoids Comey testimony on wiretapping during Kentucky rally

FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee Monday about an issue long dismissed by President Donald Trump as a “ruse” and “fake news” concocted by his political adversaries: Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and alleged connections between Trump associates and the country.

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The president -- who prides himself on counterpunching -- and his aides have hit back hard, calling for the discussion to instead focus on what they call illegal leaks of classified information, as well as an unsubstantiated insistence that Trump was surveilled by order from the previous administration.

But hours after Comey and Rogers confirmed the existence of an investigation into Russian interference in the election, the topic went completely unmentioned during Trump's speech at a campaign-style rally in Kentucky.

The typically-combative Trump did not mention Russia or Comey, who directly refuted the president's allegation that he was "wiretapped" by former President Barack Obama during last year's campaign, as a part of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee earlier in the day.

The audience at the Kentucky Exposition Center's Freedom Hall in Louisville was instead treated to remarks bearing a resemblance to Trump's campaign stump speeches. For just over 40 minutes, the president touched on staples of his agenda, including the effort to secure the nation's southern border, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and prevent instances of terrorism.

Trump also commented upon the confirmation hearing for his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch which began Monday with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last week at a similar event in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump chose to address the news of the day head-on when he launched into a searing criticism of a federal judge's ruling in Hawaii to issue a temporary restraining order on his revised travel ban, calling the move an "an unprecedented judicial overreach."

The administration's response to Monday's intelligence committee hearing remained limited to White House Secretary Sean Spicer's press briefing.

"Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia collusion," said Spicer, who also noted that Trump would not withdraw his wiretap accusation.

Following the event in Nashville last week, Trump said he planned to continue to hold rallies with supporters throughout the country every two weeks. The events are paid for by Trump's campaign committee.