President Donald Trump called the ongoing talks with congressional lawmakers to avoid another shutdown “a waste of time” on Thursday, and suggested he would circumvent them in order to fund his border wall in an interview with The New York Times.
“I think Nancy Pelosi is hurting our country very badly by doing what she’s doing and, ultimately, I think I’ve set the table very nicely,” Trump told the Times.
Declining to confirm whether he would declare a national emergency to acquire money to build the wall, he said, “I’ve set the table. I’ve set the stage for doing what I’m going to do.”
Trump’s move to end the shutdown last Friday marked the start of a new chapter in the border wall saga, kicking off three weeks of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats of both chambers in pursuit of an agreement on border security. If Trump does not find the deal delivered to him by February 15 satisfactory, parts of the government may shut down again – and he could declare a national emergency to fund the wall himself.
Trump intimated that he would no longer work with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and stressed that he would see the wall’s construction through one way or another.
“I’ve actually always gotten along with her, but now I don’t think I will any more,” Trump told the Times, accusing Pelosi of “doing a tremendous disservice to the country.”
“I’ll continue to build the wall, and we’ll get the wall finished,” Trump added. “Now whether or not I declare a national emergency – that you’ll see.”
The President also addressed elements of the Russia investigation, including the involvement of his longtime former aide Roger Stone, during the Times interview. Special counsel Robert Mueller charged Stone last Thursday with seeking stolen emails from WikiLeaks in conjunction with senior Trump campaign officials in order to harm Trump’s rivals.
“I never did” discuss WikiLeaks with Stone or direct anyone to coordinate with him on the matter, Trump told the Times. He called Stone “a character” who he’s “always liked,” and called the FBI’s early morning raid on Stone’s home “a very sad thing for this country.”
Trump also commented on several key elements of the investigation, including: playing down the significance of the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project his company pursued leading up to the 2016 election, denying his former lawyer’s assertion of how long he remained involved in the project’s negotiation, and casting doubt on whether his Twitter messages threatening former associates cooperating with Mueller qualify as witness tampering.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has assured Trump’s lawyers that “I’m not a subject, I’m not a target” in Mueller’s investigation, the President told the Times.
When asked if he held the same status in the unrelated investigation conducted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, Trump replied, “I don’t know about that.”