President Donald Trump on Thursday brushed aside calls that he had interfered in the ongoing special counsel inquiry and said he would go forward with plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border unilaterally after growing frustrated with Congress.
“I’ve set the table. I’ve set the stage for doing what I’m going to do,” Trump said in a sweeping interview with The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. He also called talks about the wall a “waste of time.”
Read the full interview with The New York Times here.
The president spoke at length about his frustrations with congressional lawmakers, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of “hurting our country very badly.” Pelosi forced Trump’s hand last week, and the president backed down from his demand for $5.7 billion to begin building his wall. The break in the impasse allowed the reopening of parts of the government that had been shuttered for 35 days.
Trump has continued to mull declaring a national emergency as part of his efforts to secure funding for the barrier, although doing so would guarantee an immediate and lengthy court battle. He demurred Thursday when asked about doing so by the Times but said that, whatever avenue he pursues, Pelosi would not be able to block him.
“I’ll continue to build the wall, and we’ll get the wall finished,” he told the Times. “Now whether or not I declare a national emergency — that you’ll see.”
Trump told reporters Thursday that he ended the shutdown, which had affected about 800,000 federal workers, because “people were getting hurt.” But he noted that the shutdown was beneficial to his cause because “now [people] understand the subject. They understand what a humanitarian crisis it is.”
The Times noted that their interview took place after Trump himself reached out to the newspaper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and asked for a private dinner. Sulzberger said no to the invitation and offered an on-the-record chat with two Times reporters present, and Trump agreed.
Trump also spoke about special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing inquiry into the 2016 presidential election, challenging characterizations the investigation has been a drain on his presidency. He denied that his near-constant stream of social media posts about his former aides and associates, many of whom have been ensnared by the inquiry, amounted to witness tampering and said the outgoing deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has told him he is “not a target.”
“This is not the money,” the president also said when asked if he was profiting off his administration. “This [is] one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don’t need money. This is one of the great losers of all time.”
He noted he maintained “great support” in his party and, asked if he ever thought about bowing out after one term, simply said: “I don’t see it.”