WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t the weekend that President Donald Trump needed: largely alone on the White House, irked by a pair of startling Russia headlines and baffled that he’s not getting extra credit score for staying put through the partial authorities shutdown.
Trump shocked his aides by deciding, with just some hours’ discover, to name in to Jeanine Pirro’s present on Fox News on Saturday night time to push again in opposition to protection of his presidency on a number of fronts, notably printed studies about his method towards Russia.
Even then, the president averted immediately answering when Pirro requested whether or not he at the moment is or has ever labored for Russia. The query got here after The New York Times reported that regulation enforcement officers started investigating, in 2017, whether or not Trump had been engaged on behalf of Russia in opposition to U.S. pursuits. The newspaper mentioned the investigation got here after the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
“I feel it’s probably the most insulting factor I’ve ever been requested,” Trump informed Pirro, a private pal. “I feel it’s probably the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and when you learn the article you’ll see that they discovered completely nothing.”
Trump went on to claim that no president has taken a tougher stance in opposition to Russia than he has.
“If you ask the parents in Russia, I’ve been more durable on Russia than anyone else, another … most likely another president, interval, however actually the final three or 4 presidents,” he mentioned.
White House aides expressed remorse that the president didn’t extra clearly and forcefully deny being a Russian agent when requested by the normally pleasant Fox News host, in keeping with three White House aides and Republicans near the White House. The three spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to debate personal conversations.
Trump additionally objected to a report in The Washington Post that mentioned he went to extraordinary lengths to hide particulars of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin even from high-ranking officers in his personal administration. The report cited unnamed present and former U.S. officers.
In the Fox News interview, Trump questioned why the newspaper made such a “huge deal” out of his discussions with Putin in Helsinki final summer time. “Anybody may have listened to that assembly, that assembly is up for grabs.”
The Russia studies got here as Trump performs up his presence on the White House through the standoff with Democrats over funding for his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Large swaths of the federal government have been shut down for weeks whereas Trump and Democrats in Congress stay at an deadlock over cash for the border wall.
Trump has been making an attempt to play up his presence on the White House through the standoff as an indication that it’s Democrats who gained’t negotiate a deal.
“I just like the image of me being right here,” Trump informed Pirro. “I like that image as a result of I’m able to signal. And they’re not. And they’re not.”
Trump has expressed bafflement that he’s not getting extra credit score for largely staying put through the shutdown. Aides acknowledge that the West Wing mishandled the primary few days of the shutdown, when Trump remained out of sight, and at the moment are making an attempt to make use of the trimmings of his workplace, with an Oval Office speech, a go to to the Texas border and the president’s frequent tweets about ready within the White House for Democrats to behave.
By Sunday night time, a blanket of snow in Washington appeared to offer a chilled backdrop for the discontented president. He tweeted: “Wish I may share with everybody the sweetness and majesty of being within the White House and looking out outdoors on the snow stuffed lawns and Rose Garden. Really is one thing – SPECIAL COUNTRY, SPECIAL PLACE!”
Trump’s declare that he’s been robust on Russia was disputed Sunday by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the highest Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The senator mentioned nearly all of the sanctions on Russia arose not within the White House however in Congress, on account of issues by members of each events about Moscow’s actions. Warner accused the White House of being very sluggish to place in place the penalties.
The Times reported that FBI brokers and a few prime officers turned suspicious of Trump’s ties to Russia through the 2016 presidential marketing campaign however didn’t open an investigation at the moment as a result of they weren’t positive how one can method such a delicate probe.
Trump’s conduct within the days round Comey’s May 2017 firing helped set off the counterintelligence a part of the probe, in keeping with the newspaper.
In the inquiry, counterintelligence investigators sought to judge whether or not Trump was a possible menace to nationwide safety. They additionally sought to find out whether or not Trump was intentionally working for Russia or had unintentionally been influenced by Moscow.
Trump tweeted early Saturday that the report confirmed that the FBI management “opened up an investigation on me, for no motive & with no proof” after he had fired Comey.
Robert Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed particular counsel quickly after Comey’s firing. The general investigation is wanting into Russian election interference and whether or not Trump’s marketing campaign coordinated with the Russians, in addition to attainable obstruction of justice by Trump. The Times says it’s unclear whether or not Mueller remains to be pursuing the counterintelligence angle.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani informed the Times he had no information of the counterintelligence inquiry however mentioned that because it was opened a yr and a half in the past and so they hadn’t heard something, apparently “they discovered nothing.”
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press author Lynn Berry contributed to this report.