Pres­i­dent is home alone and in a huff

The West Australian - - WORLD - Dar­lene Su­perville and Jonathan Lemire Wash­ing­ton

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.

Pic­ture: AP

Don­ald Trump speaks on the South Lawn.

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