President Trump on Saturday pushed back on suggestions that he attempted to interfere with the Justice Department’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.In a press conference flanked by GOP leaders at Camp David, Trump responded to a New York Times article that said Trump had directed White House counsel Don McGahn last year to lobby Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in the ongoing Russia investigation.
Everything that I’ve done was 100 percent proper. The story, by the way, in the Times was way off or at least off Trump said in response to a question from The Hill.
But everything I’ve done has been 100 percent proper. That’s what I do, I do things proper,he said.
Trump’s comments came after the Times reported Thursday that the president ordered McGahn to urge Sessions not to recuse himself in the probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The report said that Trump had also drafted a letter to now-fired FBI Director James Comey, in which Trump called the Russia probe “fabricated and politically motivated,” before being stopped by aides.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, following Comey’s firing, appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russia’s meddling in the election and ties to Trump’s campaign.At the press conference Saturday, Trump also asserted that claims from some Democrats about his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia were now dead.
I guess the collusion now is dead,” Trump said. “There’s been no collusion between us and the Russians. Now, there has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee DNC and the Russians. Unfortunately, you people don’t cover that very much. But the only collusion is between Hillary and the Russians and the DNC.
But the story in the Times was off, he added.
Pressed on how the story was off, Trump responded, “You’ll find out. But the story was off.”
Mueller’s team has so far brought charges against four former Trump campaign officials, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI. Manafort, along with his business associate Richard Gates, was charged with money laundering and tax fraud.President Donald Trump again denied on Saturday that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia and dismissed claims he obstructed justice by trying to prevent the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from a Justice Department probe into Russian election meddling.
Everything I’ve done is 100 percent proper, Trump said during a press conference on the sidelines of a meeting with congressional leaders at Camp David. “That is what I do, is I do things proper.”
He added later, Just so you understand, there’s been no collusion, there’s been no crime.
The president took questions from reporters for about 10 minutes on issues ranging from the GOP’s 2018 legislative agenda to North Korea to an explosive new book that alleges concern among White House aides about his mental condition.
“I consider it a work of fiction,” Trump said, complaining about what he called the country’s weak libel laws.
Libel laws are very weak in this country,he said If they were stronger, hopefully, you would not have something like that happen.The president also cast doubt on a Thursday New York Times report that said Trump asked the White House’s top lawyer to convince Sessions not to recuse himself in March from the Justice Department’s inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election interference.
Trump said the story was off but did not explain why. On Friday, his personal attorney dismissed the story to POLITICO as a “nothing burger,even as many legal experts said it shows special counsel Robert Mueller could present a strong obstruction of justice case.
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Trump said he continues to have confidence in Sessions, even though the attorney general did not participate in the Camp David summit, which included several other Cabinet secretaries.
Trump added that he hopes National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn stays in his job but then joked, If he leaves, I’m going to say, I’m very happy that he left.”
The president also said he would be open to talking to North Korean leader Kim Jong un, despite the fiery rhetoric he has employed against him.Sure, I always believe in talking,he said. In October, Trump said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was wasting his time by trying to communicate with the nuclear-armed Asian dictatorship.
GOP leaders speaking alongside Trump seemed to acknowledge that 2018 would be a difficult year for their party. Instead of detailing specific policy plans for the coming months, Republicans spent much of the press conference touting their 2017 accomplishments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared 2017 to be “the most consequential year in the many years that I’ve been here in Congress,” and touted judicial nominations in particular.
Trump cited passage of December’s landmark tax reform bill, which also repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate and opened up parts of Alaska’s Arctic for oil drilling a decades-old GOP goal.
“It’s going to be tough to beat the year we just left because what we had last year was something very special,” Trump said.
Republicans also suggested they’d shift from a purely partisan agenda to one that includes Democrats. For weeks, party leaders have debated whether they should tack right and peruse red-meat legislation like entitlement reform, or take on subjects they believe can win bipartisan support such as infrastructure.
Republicans signaled Saturday that they would choose the latter, specifically citing their desire to rebuild roads and bridges and reshape federal anti-poverty programs.
I think we’re going to go bipartisan; we’re going to have some bipartisan bills,Trump said.US President Donald Trump speaks to the media prior to departing on Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, October 25 2017 as he travels to Dallas Texas.
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Added Vice President Mike Pence We truly do believe that there are opportunities after our discussions this weekend for bipartisan work on a broad range of issue from infrastructure to workforce and vocational education,Pence said.
The president also seemed to distance himself from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent push to tackle entitlement reform. The speaker in recent weeks had set his sights on an overhaul of welfare programs including work requirements for things like food stamps housing and Medicaid.
The idea which would be very popular with the Republican base has made some Republican leaders like McConnell uncomfortable. The Kentucky Republican, along with some more political minded House leaders, worry that such a proposal could backfire on swing state Republicans during the midterm elections and cripple their majority.
Their concerns have led Ryan to narrow his push, according to two senior House Republican sources. But, the speaker still discussed the matter in vague terms Saturday, framing the issue as poverty reform that helps move the unemployed from welfare to work.
There are people who are sidelined in society who want to get out of poverty and into the work force,Ryan said. We want to make sure we close that skills gap and opportunity gap so that everyone has a life and career in this country and tap this potential.”Trump told reporters that Republicans would only pursue welfare in a bipartisan way otherwise we’ll have to do it a little later.That effectively rules out any House conservatives’ hopes of using a fast track reconciliation process to bypass Democrats and make steep cuts to the safety net.
GOP leaders said they also intend to focus this year on military spending, anti drug efforts, workforce training, a budget agreement and immigration enforcement.
But on immigration one of the most pressing and divisive items on Congress’s agenda Trump stuck to hard line demands that could prevent bipartisan agreement on the fate of so called Dreamers who are losing legal protections and work permits.
Trump reiterated his price for ensuring that young immigrants can stay in the U.S. legally a wall along the U.S Mexico border, an end to the “diversity visa” lottery program, and changes to laws allowing citizens to sponsor some relatives for green cards. Provisions dealing with those issues should be lumped in the same legislation, Trump said Saturday at Camp David.
He issued a directive killing the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program starting March 5, although many DACA recipients have already lost their protections.
We all want DACA to happen,Trump said, referring to the top congressional Republicans who accompanied him. “But we also want great security for our country. So important.
Key senators trying to hammer out a deal, including Democrats, are discussing ways to bolster border security, deal with family-based immigration laws and handle the visa lottery, which grants 50,000 visas to immigrants from countries that are traditionally underrepresented in the United States.
But the administration is making demands that Democrats won’t accept. For instance, Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill blasted the administration for its border wall request sent to key senators on Friday, totaling $18 billion over a decade.
That request came even as Trump on Saturday kept insisting that Mexico would be financially responsible for building it.
Q: Did you ask Sessions not to recuse himself from Russia probe?
Trump: Everything that I’ve done was 100% proper. The story, by the way, in The Times was way off, or at least off. …
Q: In what way was the story off?
Trump: You’ll find out. But the story was off. pic.twitter.com/RD13wQ51Kt
— David Mack (@davidmackau) January 6, 2018
I believe that Mexico will pay for the wall, Trump said. In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.
Later in the press conference, the president said he has no current plans to back challenges to incumbent Republicans in Congress.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said.
But Trump said he expects to spend a significant amount of time campaigning for Republican lawmakers in the coming months.