ANALYSIS | President Donald Trump was back Wednesday to his defiant manner after playing the role of accommodating host and facilitator-in-chief on Tuesday when he told lawmakers he would sign just about any immigration bill that funds a border wall.
Trump crossed his arms behind the presidential podium when asked during a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart if he is willing to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Justice Department’s Russia probe. The president several times reiterated his long-held stance that his 2016 presidential campaign did not collude with any Russians.
Trump played coy on whether he would sit down with Mueller, and on whether he would insist on a number of stipulations for such an interview. He contended since there was no collusion between he or his campaign and Russians, there then would be no need for an interview.
“There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians,” he said. “No collusion.” Therefore, to the president, it “seems unlikely” there will be a need for a Trump-Mueller interview, despite reports his legal team expects just that.
He used the term “no collusion” at least a half-dozen times during one answer. The closest he came to addressing the Mueller interview question was one of his preferred replies: “So, we’ll see what happens.”
The president again made clear he wants to thaw relations with Moscow even as some of his once-closest aides and family members appear to be at the center of Mueller’s probe.
“It is better to work with Russia,” Trump declared.
But he also tried to describe his policies as at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests.
Trump said he is for “massive” expansions of the U.S. energy sector. “Putin can’t love that,” Trump declared. The U.S. leader also said he plans a major military buildup, again promising the “strongest” American combat force in history. “Putin can’t love that,” he said.
Trump’s 2018 Legislative Agenda is Already Slipping
On Tuesday, Trump exuded a warmer demeanor when he hosted Republican and Democratic lawmakers to discuss an immigration overhaul bill.
Though he campaign as a dealmaker uniquely qualified to break Washington’s partisan gridlock, he let the lawmakers talk for extended periods of time during the 90-minute meeting, often following the voices talking over one another like he was watching a tennis match. And when it came to the substance of what they might be able to work out, he made clear he plans to leave the specifics to them.
“I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with,” the president said during the Tuesday meeting.
“I am very much reliant on the people in this room,” he said. “I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it, because I respect them.”
But a day later, he had a warning for the immigration negotiators in the form of a veto threat. Trump said he would not sign an immigration overhaul bill that excludes funding for his proposed southern border wall.
“We have to have the wall for security purposes,” he said, echoing a major theme of his 2016 campaign, “and security is No. 1.”
A few hours before he stood with his arms tightly crossed around his chest while being questioned about the Mueller-led probe on national television, the charmer-in-chief was on full display in the Cabinet room — the same one in which he allowed pool reporters to remain for 55 minutes of his Tuesday immigration session with lawmakers.
“Welcome back to the Studio! Nice to have you,” the former reality television host told reporters. “You’ve gotten very familiar with this room.”
He contended the immigration meeting netted him ample praise on cable news networks, even contending “a lot of those anchors sent us letters saying that was one of the greatest meetings they’ve ever witnessed.” He did not name those alleged anchors by name.
“Some called it a performance,” he said. “I consider it work.”
And the president predicted media outlets’ raked in the profits as footage of the immigration huddle aired. “I’m sure their ratings were fantastic. They always are, which is why I think the media will ultimately support Trump in the end because they’re going to say, ‘If Trump doesn’t win in three years, they’re all out of business.’”