WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday asserted that he “never worked for Russia” and called FBI officials who reportedly opened a counterintelligence investigation into his relationship with Moscow “dirty cops.”
“I never worked for Russia,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing for New Orleans to speak at the Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention. “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question because it's a whole big fat hoax."
Trump was responding to questions about a New York Times article published Friday that indicated the FBI opened a probe in 2017 to examine whether the president was beholden to the Kremlin or working on behalf of Russia against American interests.
The counterintelligence investigation was launched following Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and was meant to explore in part whether Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice or a national security threat. The investigation has since been taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as part of his broader probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
On Saturday, Trump deflected when asked whether he worked on behalf of Russia during a televised phone interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Trump told Pirro, without flatly denying his involvement with Russia.
Facing scrutiny over his initial response, Trump pushed back against the Times report on Monday, telling reporters his firing of Comey was “a great service for our country,” and describing those who launched the investigation as “dirty cops” and “scoundrels.”
The president also dismissed as “fake news” a Washington Post article published on Saturday that detailed his efforts to conceal his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump, according to the Post, demanded his interpreter hand over her notes and told the interpreter not to share what was discussed with other administration officials.
Asked if he would be willing to share his interpreter’s notes — which is routinely done among administration officials following such high-stake meetings with foreign leaders — Trump did not answer the question directly, instead describing his meetings with Putin as “very successful.”
“I have those meetings one-on-one with all leaders including the president of China, including prime minister of Japan,” Trump said. “We have those meetings all the time. No big deal.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told CNN on Monday that the committee “may have no choice” but to subpoena the interpreter's notes.
Engel said in the coming months, the committee “will be holding hearings on the mysteries swirling around Trump’s bizarre relationship with Putin and his cronies, and how those dark dealings affect our national security.”