President Donald Trump on Monday denied working for the Russian government after a report detailing a FBI counterintelligence probe into whether he was working for Russia and against U.S. interests.
The New York Times report stated federal investigators became concerned about Trump actions around the time and after he fired former FBI Director James Comey, including admitting publicly he did so with the Justice Department’s broader Russian election meddling investigation on his mind.
Trump said Monday he “never worked for Russia,” and called the report and FBI counterintelligence probe a collective “big fat hoax.”
He snapped at a reporter as he left the White House for a trip to New Orleans after she asked about the report of the FBI’s investigation into whether he worked for Russia, calling her question a “disgrace.”
A defiant Trump, as he has for more than a year, said again Monday he did the entire country “a great service” when he fired Comey. Democratic members and some legal experts, however, have questioned whether that alone amounted to obstruction of justice.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported Trump has taken steps to conceal details of his meetings and phone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump called that story “fake news” on Monday as he left for a flight to address the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention.
Meanwhile, Trump on Monday said “a lot” of Democratic lawmakers are “calling and they are breaking” with their party over the government shutdown. He did not name names, however.
“We have a very big crisis, a humanitarian crisis on the border. Everybody knows it. They know it and many of them are saying, ‘We agree with you.’ Many of them are calling and many of them are breaking.”
Trump took a jab at Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez, who was photographed over the weekend on a Puerto Rican beach as a quarter of the federal government was closed.
“I’ve been here all weekend. A lot of the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something. I don’t know, maybe they’re celebrating the shutdown,” Trump said.
More than 30 Democratic members of Congress are in San Juan for the annual winter retreat of Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political arm.
Trump backed off his previous threats to declare a national emergency at the southern border if he cannot cut a deal with congressional Democratic leaders. “I’m not looking to call a national emergency,” he said.
Of a plan floated by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to pass a stopgap funding measure to reopen shuttered federal agencies for a few weeks while border wall and security negotiations continue, “I did reject it,” Trump said. The president said he wants to find a long-term solution and now just “delay it.”
Watch: Trump, Pelosi dig in to their positions on border security