After playing golf yesterday at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, President Trump said, in a surprise interview with The New York Times, that he thought the Russia investigation “makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position.”
He also added his belief that Robert Mueller, special counsel in the Russia investigation, would treat him fairly.
This, said the Times, contradicted some members of his party who had waged a "weeks-long campaign to try to discredit Mr Mueller and the continuing inquiry."
During the 30-minute interview, the President did not demand an end to the Russia investigations, but insisted 16 times that there had been “no collusion” discovered by the inquiry.
“It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Trump said of the investigation. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”
Asked whether he would order the Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, he said, “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”
His supporters have said that that as President he has the power to open or end an investigation. “But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”
Hours after he accused the Chinese of secretly shipping oil to North Korea, Trump explicitly said for the first time that he has “been soft” on China on trade, " in the hopes that its leaders will pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program."
“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” he said, raising the possibility of aggressive trade actions against China. “If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do.”
When he visited China in November, Trump said President Xi Jinping “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.” But the US president said “they have to help us much more.”
“We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China,” he said.
Mr. Trump gave the interview to the surprise of some colleagues after he ate lunch with his playing partners, including his son Eric and the pro golfer Jim Herman. No aides were present for the interview, said the Times. The president sat alone with a New York Times reporter at a large round table as club members chatted and ate lunch nearby.
In the interview, the President touted the strength of his campaign victories and his accomplishments in office, including passage of a tax overhaul this month. But he expressed frustration and anger at Democrats, who he said refused to negotiate on legislation.
Mr Trump said he still hoped Democrats will work with him on bipartisan legislation in the coming year to overhaul health care, improve the country’s crumbling infrastructure and help young immigrants brought to the country as children.