In Wednesday’s freewheeling question-and-answer period with reporters, President Trump defended his recent attacks on the numerous investigations currently underway into Russian interference in the 2016 election by denying that it’s obstruction of justice, and saying that he’s merely “fighting back.”
But the unedited transcript, provided by CNN, shows that his speech is far more rambling and unmoored than it was even a year ago, raising further concerns that he is losing his capacity to govern.
When a reporter asked him if he would be speaking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president said:
TRUMP: I’m looking forward to it, actually. Here’s a start, just so you understand: there has been no collusion whatsoever. There’s no obstruction whatsoever, and I’m looking forward to it. I do worry when I look at all the things you people don’t report about, with what’s happening, if you take a look at, you know, the five months’ worth of missing texts—that’s a lot of missing texts—and as I said yesterday, that’s prime time. So, you [gotta] look at that and say, “What’s going on?” You do look at certain texts where they talk about insurance policies, or insurance, or they say the kinds of things they’re saying, you’ve gotta be concerned. But I would love to do that, and I’d like to do it as soon as possible. Good luck everybody.
Reporter: Do you have a date set, Mr. President?
TRUMP: I guess they’re talking about two or three weeks, but I would love to do it. You know, again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it.
Reporter: Would you do it on your own, Mr. President?
TRUMP: You mean like Hillary did it under, who said that? Oh, you say a lot. Did Hillary do it under oath?
Reporter: I have no idea, but I’m not asking that—
TRUMP: I think you have an idea. Do you not have an idea? Do you REALLY not have an idea? I’ll give you an idea: she didn’t do it under oath. But I would do it under oath. And you know she didn’t do it under oath, right? If you didn’t know about Hillary, then you’re not much of a reporter.
Reporter: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: Oh I would do it under oath, yeah, absolutely.
Later in the exchange, a reporter asked:
Reporter: Mr. President, one more quick one: Do you think Robert Mueller will be fair to you in this larger investigation?
TRUMP: We’re gonna find out. We’re gonna find out. Because here’s what we’ll say: No collusion. There’s no collusion. Now they’re saying, “Oh, well did he fight back?” If you fight back—John. You fight back. You fight back, oh it’s obstruction. So here’s the thing, I hope so.
Reporter: So how do you define collusion? Maggie asked this earlier during the briefing to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
TRUMP: You’re gonna define it for me, OK? But I can tell you, there’s no collusion. I couldn’t have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign. The fact is, you people won’t say this but I’ll say it. I was a much better candidate than her. You always say she was a bad candidate, you never say I was a good candidate. I was one of the greatest candidates. Nobody else would’ve beaten the Clinton machine, as crooked as it was. But I was a great candidate. One day you’re going to say that.
The president has repeatedly referred to the Russia probe as a “hoax” and said in December that the investigation “makes the country look very bad.” Trump has denied any collusionbetween his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, and he told the New York Times that “even if there was, it’s not a crime.”
Yes, it is, Mr. President: it’s called conspiracy to defraud the United States.