President is home alone and in a huff
It wasn’t the weekend that US President Donald Trump wanted – largely alone at the White House, irked by startling Russia headlines and baffled that he is not getting more credit for staying put during the partial government shutdown.
Mr Trump surprised his aides by deciding, with just a few hours’ notice, to call in to Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News on Saturday night to complain about coverage of his presidency on multiple fronts.
But he avoided directly answering whether he was working or has ever worked for Russia.
The question came after The New York Times reported that law enforcement officials began investigating – in 2017 – whether Mr Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against US interests.
The newspaper said the investigation came after he sacked FBI director James Comey.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Mr Trump told Pirro, a personal friend.
“I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing.”
Mr Trump went on to assert that no president had taken a harder stance against Russia than he had.
“If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other . . . probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents,” he said.
White House aides expressed regret that Mr Trump did not more clearly and forcefully deny being a Russian agent when asked by the usually friendly Fox News host, according to administration sources.
He is playing up his presence at the White House during the stand-off with Democrats over funding for his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border.
Large swaths of the government have been shut down for weeks while Mr Trump and Democrats in Congress remain at an impasse over money for the border wall.
Mr Trump says his presence at the White House is a sign that it is the Democrats who will not negotiate a deal.
“I like the symbol of me being here,” he told Pirro. “I like that symbol because I am ready to sign. And they’re not.”
Aides are trying to use the trappings of Mr Trump’s office, with an Oval Office speech, a visit to the Texas border and the President’s frequent tweets about waiting in the White House for Democrats to act.
Donald Trump speaks on the South Lawn.