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Trump Fox News interview: President responds to New York Times, Washington Post stories on Russia in interview with Jeanine Pirro

Trump Fox News interview: President responds to New York Times, Washington Post stories on Russia in interview with Jeanine Pirro

In an interview Saturday, President Trump disparaged two recent explosive reports about his dealings with the Kremlin, lashing out at the FBI and the news media and defending his interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The first, published by the New York Times on Friday, revealed the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the president the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. The bureau was reportedly investigating whether Mr. Trump was working for the Russians, either intentionally or unwittingly.

“Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?”Jeanine Pirro of Fox News asked him in an interview Saturday.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I have ever been asked,” Mr. Trump told Pirro by phone, without explicitly denying the charge. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing.”    

The FBI had also began looking into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice when he fired Comey, an aspect of the investigation that was already widely known. The counterintelligence investigation, according to the Times, was in part spurred by Mr. Trump’s remarks on two occasions that Comey’s firing was related to the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Mr. Trump himself had said there was a connection during an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt in May 2017. He also reportedly told Russian officials visiting the White House that firing Comey, who he called a “nut job,” had relieved “great pressure because of Russia.”

Robert Mueller inherited the obstruction of justice investigation when he was named special counsel shortly after Comey’s firing. The Times reported Mueller also took over the counterintelligence investigation, but the paper said it is unclear whether that aspect of his investigation is ongoing.

On Saturday, Pirro also asked the president about a Washington Post report published Saturday saying Mr. Trump had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to hide the details of several of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin from other officials in his administration. 

After a G-20 meeting in Hamburg in July 2017, the president took possession of his interpreter’s notes and instructed the linguist “not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials,” the Post reported, citing current and former U.S. officials. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended Mr. Trump’s first official meeting with Putin, but the two presidents also spoke for up to an hour at dinner, a conversation the White House did not acknowledge for nearly two weeks. Only Putin’s interpreter was present for that conversation.

The Post reported that the U.S. interpreter present at the official Hamburg meeting was approached by other administration officials seeking more information about what the two leaders discussed. The interpreter revealed only that Mr. Trump replied “I believe you” when Putin denied meddling in the U.S. elections, according to the Post.

Mr. Trump and Putin also spoke for more than two hours at their summit in Helsinki in July 2018, accompanied only by their interpreters. Little is known about what transpired behind closed doors.

Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on Mon., July 16, 2018.

Reuters


“Why not release the conversation that you had with President Putin in Helsinki?” Pirro asked on Saturday.

“I would, I don’t care,” the president told Pirro. “I mean, I had a conversation like every president does.  You sit with the president of various countries.  I do it with all countries.”  

Mr. Trump said he is “not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn’t care less,” adding that “anybody could have listened to that meeting. That meeting is up for grabs.” He also accused the Post of fabricating the report. 

“It’s so ridiculous.  These people make it up,” Mr. Trump said, providing no evidence. 

Senior U.S. officials told the Post they never received a reliable readout of Mr. Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki. Afterward, Mr. Trump and Putin held a press conference in which the president said Putin had told him he had not meddled in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump said he believed the Russian president, contradicting the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community. 

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” the president said at the time. “I have President Putin, he just said, it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

Mr. Trump later said he had misspoken, saying he accepted the intelligence community’s assessment.

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