US President Donald Trump has denied he ever worked for Russia, answering a question he declined to directly address over the weekend.
Speaking from the South Lawn before departing the White House for New Orleans, Mr 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 Mr Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against US interests.
“I never worked for Russia,” he told reporters.
The president did not directly answer the question in a Saturday Fox News interview.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Mr 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.”
Mr 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.
Mr Trump on Monday defended his decision to fire FBI director James Comey, a move that has drawn the scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The president called the Russia probe “a whole big fat hoax”.
- Press Association