President Trump on Monday flatly denied that he worked for Russia, and he called FBI officials who launched a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether he did “known scoundrels” and “dirty cops.”
Trump’s comments to reporters as he left the White House came in response to reports that an FBI investigation that was opened after Trump fired then-Director James B. Comey in May 2017 included a component to determine whether the president was seeking to help Russia.
“I never worked for Russia,” Trump said as he prepared to leave for an event in New Orleans, adding: “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. It’s just a hoax.”
During a television appearance Saturday night, after the counterintelligence component of the Trump investigation was first reported by the New York Times, Trump called a question whether he had ever worked for Russia “insulting” but did not directly answer it.
On Monday, he did not equivocate and also attacked Comey and others in the FBI responsible for the investigation of possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign.
That investigation is being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who was appointed after Trump fired Comey.
“He was a bad cop and he was a dirty cop,” Trump said of Comey.
The president also attacked former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe as “a proven liar and was fired from the FBI.” McCabe made the decision to open the counterintelligence component of the investigation of Trump.
Trump also pointed to “bias” shown by former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, two employees who were having an affair and exchanged derogatory texts about Trump.
Speaking more broadly of FBI leadership at the time, Trump said “the people doing that investigation were people that have been caught that are known scoundrels. They’re ... I guess you could say they’re dirty cops.”
Trump and Comey have sparred repeatedly, particularly since the release of a book last year by Comey that describes Trump’s presidency as a “forest fire” and portrays the president as an ego-driven congenital liar.
McCabe was fired last year, and a grand jury is weighing possible charges against him for allegedly misleading investigators in a leak probe.
Trump also sought Monday to play down a Washington Post report over the weekend that he had gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those included at least one occasion, in 2017 in Hamburg, when Trump took possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructed the linguist not to discuss what had happened with other administration officials.
Asked if he would be willing to share the interpreter’s notes, Trump did not directly answer, instead saying “it was actually a very successful meeting” in which he and Putin discussed “many subjects.”
“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.”
Democrats led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) began huddling Monday about how to determine what took place with the interpreter’s notes and whether to compel her testimony.
Engel’s staff is also working with Democratic leaders on the House Intelligence Committee, where chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) attempted last year to subpoena the testimony, before Democrats were in the majority.
“The Republicans on our committee voted us down,” Schiff said via Twitter Sunday, of his attempt to subpoena the interpreter. “Will they join us now? Shouldn’t we find out whether our president is really putting ‘America first’?”
A spokesman for Schiff declined to comment further. A spokesman for Engel said that he sees a subpoena as a tool of last resort – not just for the interpreter’s testimony, but for everything regarding investigations and oversight of the executive branch.
It is not clear what the timeline will be for the panels to make a decision, or whether Engel’s panel will ultimately be the one to compel the interpreter’s notes or testimony regarding what happened to them.
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.