Speaking from the South Lawn before departing the White House for New Orleans, Trump called former FBI and Justice Department officials “known scoundrels” and “dirty cops.” He was reacting to a New York Times report that law enforcement officials began investigating, in 2017, whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against U.S. interests.
"I never worked for Russia," he told reporters. Trump didn't directly answer the question in a Saturday Fox News interview.
"I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked," Trump told Jeanine 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."
Trump went on to assert that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he has.
"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 over the weekend that the president did not more clearly and forcefully deny being a Russian agent when asked by the usually friendly Fox News host, according to three White House aides and Republicans close to the White House.
The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Trump Monday defended his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, a move that has drawn the scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump called the Russia probe "a whole big fat hoax."
AP writers Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey contributed to the story.