Trump Has a Few Things He’d Like to Get Off His Chest

Speaking to reporters, President Trump answered questions about investigations, North Korea and immigration.

WASHINGTON — He assailed the “scum on top” of the F.B.I. who were out to get him. He suggested that a former aide did not lie even though he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. And he distanced himself from his onetime campaign chairman hours before the aide was sent to jail.

Reasserting himself on the Washington stage after a week spent overseas or out of sight, President Trump went on offense on Friday in his multifront war with investigators, eagerly framing a new Justice Department report as validation of his claim of a “deep state” conspiracy against him.

“They were plotting against my election,” Mr. Trump said, pointing to partisan texts sent by several F.B.I. agents during the 2016 presidential campaign and cited in the report. The F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, ran a corrupt operation and should be prosecuted, he added. “Comey was the ringleader of this whole, you know, den of thieves.”

Mr. Trump’s rendition of the report by the Justice Department inspector general was selective. The report faulted Peter Strzok, a senior F.B.I. agent, and four other bureau officials for anti-Trump messages, but concluded that no decisions were made out of political bias. Indeed, the report’s sharp criticism of Mr. Comey centered on actions that damaged Hillary Clinton during the campaign, not Mr. Trump, and it determined that the decision not to prosecute her for using a private unsecured email server while secretary of state was reasonable.

Mr. Trump dismissed that conclusion. “The end result was wrong,” he said. “I mean, there was total bias. I mean, when you look at Peter Strzok and what he said about me. When you look at Comey, all his moves. You know, it was interesting, it was a pretty good report. Then I say that the I.G. blew it at the very end with that statement.”

The president’s assessment came during a quintessentially Trumpian discourse on current affairs, first on “Fox & Friends” and then with reporters who surrounded him on the White House driveway. Seemingly energized by his landmark meeting this week with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump depicted his presidency as a string of unvarnished successes despite the unfair and even criminal forces arrayed against him.

Even aside from Mr. Comey and the “total thieves” at the F.B.I., Mr. Trump mounted withering attacks on a variety of other favorite targets, including congressional Democrats, Barack Obama, Robert S. Mueller III, Canada’s prime minister, professional football players and the news media. At the same time, he extolled his warm relations with leaders of North Korea, China and Russia.

“We’ve done more — I don’t say this in a bragging way, actually some of the haters actually say this — we’ve done more in 500 days, so now it’s 510 days, than any 500-day president, first term, by far,” he said at one point. “And that’s what I want to do, I want to really — you know, I got elected to make America great again, very simple.”

Indeed, in case the message did not get through, Mr. Trump used the words “great” or “greatest” 48 times. He dismissed contrary information and blamed any setbacks on Mr. Obama or the Democratic minorities in Congress. “When it’s my fault,” he said, “I’ll tell you.”

As he often does, Mr. Trump misstated or distorted a variety of facts, large and small, over the course of the television appearance and subsequent conversation with reporters.

On vindication from the inspector general: “If you read the I.G. report, I’ve been totally exonerated.” (Not true. The report examined the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email server and had nothing to say about Mr. Trump’s actions one way or the other.)

On bias in the special counsel’s office: “They have no Republicans.” (Not true. Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, is a lifelong Republican.)

On distancing himself from Paul Manafort, his indicted former campaign chairman, who was sent to jail on Friday: “He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something?” (Not true. Actually, it was 144 days.)

He likewise made expansive claims. He suggested that the vague 391-word statement he signed with Mr. Kim during their meeting in Singapore ended the nuclear standoff with North Korea. “I signed an agreement where we get everything, everything,” he said.

Credit...Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Although there is no concrete arrangement for how North Korea would dismantle its nuclear weapons arsenal, when it would happen or who would verify that it happened, Mr. Trump dismissed such questions as minor details that will be worked out.

“I have solved that problem,” he told reporters. “Now, we’re getting it memorialized and all. But that problem is largely solved.”

He praised Mr. Kim, brushing aside questions about the repressive government and gulags in North Korea. “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same,” he joked.

Mr. Trump confirmed that he wants to meet President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this summer, brushing off Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which he blamed on Mr. Obama rather than Mr. Putin. “President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn’t respect President Obama,” he said.

Likewise, he faulted Democrats in Congress for the federal authorities’ separating children from parents trying to cross the border from Mexico under a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I hate the children being taken away,” he said. “The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”

While both houses of Congress are run by Republicans, Mr. Trump said they could not act because it would require Democratic votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Democrats, however, said they would hardly filibuster legislation barring the separation of families at the border because they have already introduced such a bill with more than 30 Democratic sponsors.

Mr. Trump signaled qualified support for Scott Pruitt, his administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who is facing at least a dozen investigations into his spending and use of his office for personal matters.

“I’m not happy about certain things, I’ll be honest,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m not happy about certain things, but he’s done a fantastic job running the E.P.A., which is very overriding.”

Mr. Trump also returned to other frequent topics. He mocked National Football League players for protesting racism when they are “making $15 million a year.” He again assailed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada for saying he would not “be pushed around” over tariffs.

And he dismissed the importance of a misleading statement he dictated last year about a Trump Tower meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign, a statement that his lawyer and spokeswoman at first denied he had dictated even though his legal team later admitted that he had. “It’s irrelevant,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s not a statement to a high tribunal of judges. That’s a statement to the phony New York Times.”

Mr. Trump even suggested that his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, a retired three-star general, did not actually lie to investigators even though he has pleaded guilty to doing so and the president himself has previously said he fired Mr. Flynn for lying.

“I feel badly for General Flynn,” he said. “He’s lost his house, he’s lost his life. And some people say he lied and some people say he didn’t lie. I mean really it turned out maybe he didn’t lie. How can you do that? How can you do that because who’s lied more than Comey? Comey lied a tremendous amount.”

The president seemed most animated, however, by the new inspector general report and used it to undercut Mr. Comey and Mr. Mueller. “What he did was criminal,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Comey. “What he did was a terrible thing to the people. What he did was so bad in terms of our Constitution, in terms of the well-being of our country. What he did was horrible.”

Mr. Trump continued, “Should he be locked up? Let somebody make a determination.”

Mr. Strzok worked on the investigation into Mrs. Clinton in 2016 and his texts to a colleague, Lisa Page, were cited by the inspector general for showing an unprofessional bias. When Ms. Page was alarmed in August 2016 at the prospect of Mr. Trump’s winning the election, Mr. Strzok reassured her. “We’ll stop it,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump said that proved the F.B.I. was trying to sabotage him. “Peter Strzok should have been fired a long time ago and others should have been fired,” he said.

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