WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed the harsh criticism of him by two Republican senators and declared the Republican Party unified, as he called the news that Democrats had paid for the Russian dossier “a disgrace.”
Trump also again opposed a proposal to limit contributions to 401(k) retirement funds but said maybe they will be part of negotiations after he was told the House Republican tax-writing chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said on Wednesday the idea is still on the table.
Trump made those and other wide-ranging comments as he spoke with reporters on the White House South Lawn for about 15 minutes. He then boarded Marine One for a helicopter ride to the air base where he was scheduled to fly to Dallas for closed-door party and donor meetings.
Trump said he saw “tremendous unity” at his Tuesday meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, even though before it Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) accused him of “debasing” America and after it Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called him “dangerous” to democracy.
“I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a lovefest,” Trump said. “Standing ovations. There is great unity.”
He also predicted that both Corker and Flake “will do the right thing” and vote for tax overhaul legislation, and so will some Democrats because they will lose their elections next year if they don’t.
In response to news reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for research that resulted in a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia, Trump said, “I think it’s a disgrace. It’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country.”
But reports also said that opposition research began at the behest and payment by a Republican, and Trump said he suspected who was behind it. “I have one name in mind,” he said. “I’d rather not say, but you’ll be surprised.”
He also said what he calls the “Russian hoax” – the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered with last year’s presidential election to help Trump, as well as congressional investigations into the matter — has now “turned around” on the Democrats.
Trump said an Obama era uranium deal with Russia, completed in 2010 while Clinton was secretary of state, was so “underhanded” that he called it “Watergate, modern age.” House Republicans on Tuesday announced an investigation into it led by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
Trump answered a rapid succession of questions shouted over the noise of the idling Marine One helicopter.
Trump said he’d “love” to do a DACA deal to allow noncitizens brought here as children to stay, but it would have to include a border wall with Mexico — departing from the agreement Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said they had with him.
Trump again defended his phone call to slain Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow, denying he fumbled the soldier’s name. “I was extremely nice to her,” he said. “Extremely courteous.”
He again claimed more success in battling ISIS than was made by President Barack Obama, who set the strategy being followed by Trump.
Trump said he did not specifically authorize military involvement in Niger, but he gave his generals the authority “to do what they need to do to win” against ISIS wherever they are.
And Trump blamed the news media for what Corker and Flake described as the president’s incivility and indecency that they said has coarsened public discourse in this country, which he sets with Twitter posts that attack and belittle his critics, often with provably untrue statements.
“I think the press makes me more uncivil that I am,” Trump said. “I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I’m a very intelligent person. I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.”
But he added, “I think it’s always OK when somebody says something about you that’s false I think it’s OK to counterpunch or to fight back.”