President Donald Trump dismissed Thursday Congressional talks about border security as a “waste of time,” suggesting he could build his border wall without approval from lawmakers.
The remarks came in an interview with the New York Times — a publication Trump routinely trashes — in which the president also said he wasn’t concerned about the special counsel probe into Russian election interference because he’d been told he wasn’t a target.
Here are some of the highlights:
Trump says he will get the wall built unilaterally
Trump railed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who forced Trump to back down from his $5.7 billion demand for funding for the border wall, accusing her of “hurting our country very badly” and saying he did not think he could work with her in future.
But he expressed confidence he would get his border wall built regardless, saying he had “set the stage for doing what I’m going to do.”
“I’ll continue to build the wall and we’ll get the wall finished,” he said. “Now whether or not I declare a national emergency — that you’ll see.”
Using presidential powers to declare a national emergency on the border could enable Trump to bypass Congress and access the billions needed for his wall — but it would guarantee a lengthy court battle and would be seen by many as an abuse of power.
Trump says he isn’t worried about the Mueller investigation
Trump claimed not to be concerned about the investigation that has ensnared some of his close associates, saying his lawyers had been given assurances from departing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that he wasn’t in the cross-hairs.
“He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Trump said.
Rosenstein oversaw the Mueller investigation until last November, when oversight was transferred to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
Neither Rosenstein nor Mueller have publicly said said whether Trump is a target, but regardless of whether Trump’s understanding is correct, the issue could still be referred to the House for possible impeachment hearings.
Trump said didn’t know whether he was a target of an unrelated investigation conducted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
He also insisted he had “never” spoken to longtime former aide Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails, or directed anyone to do so on his behalf.
Stone was charged last Thursday with seeking stolen emails from WikiLeaks in cooperation with top Trump campaign officials in a bid to hurt the Democratic campaign. Trump labelled the early morning FBI raid on Stone’s home "a very sad thing for this country.”
“I like Roger, he's a character,” Trump said.
The Moscow Trump Tower project wasn’t a big deal
The president continued to downplay the significance of a controversial Trump Organization real estate proposal for Moscow that has been the subject of intense scrutiny, saying it was not a major prospect for his company.
“What has happened is this: I didn’t care,” he said. “That deal was not important. It was essentially a letter of intent or an option.”
Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress at least three times about the proposed Russian development — including a claim that the project was abandoned in January 2016, when it fact talks continued until at least June that year, when Trump was the Republican nominee.
While Trump told the Times his last conversation regarding the project happened in “early to middle” 2016, he stressed it wasn’t a big deal for his company.
“I was running for president; I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building,” he said.
Trump likely to run again in 2020, even though the job costs him “massive amounts of money”
Trump knocked back speculation he might step aside after one term of his tumultuous presidency, insisting: “I love this job.”
He also thought it was unlikely he would face a challenger from among the Republican ranks, insisting he had “great support in the party.”
His assessment of the emerging lineup of Democratic contenders for 2020 was that the party had “really drifted far left” — although he rated the campaign of Senator Kamala Harris as “the best opening so far.”
Trump also griped about the impact of the role on his bank balance, describing the job of president as a “loser” financially.
“I lost massive amounts of money doing this job,” he said. “This is not the money. This is one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don’t need money.”
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the Oval Office to make a statement announcing that a deal has been reached to reopen the government through Feb. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)