Updated Nov 3, 2017 9:45 AM EDT
President Trump stopped to talk with reporters as he prepared to depart for a 10-day trip to Asia Friday morning, calling the meeting he had with former campaign aide George Papadopoulos in 2016 unimportant, and expressing his disappointment in his own Justice Department over a perceived failure to investigate the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Mr. Trump called a March 2016 meeting involving Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts, unimportant.
“I don’t remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting, took place a long time — don’t remember much about it,” he said.
“All I can tell you is this. There was no collusion, there was no nothing. It’s a disgrace, frankly, that they continue.” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump said instead people should be looking at the DNC, and a “lot of people,” himself included, are “disappointed” in the DOJ.
“I don’t know, I’m really not involved with the Justice Department,” Mr. Trump said. “I ‘d like to let it run itself. But honestly they should be looking at the Democrats, they should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things, and a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”
Mr. Trump’s comments came after a morning tweet storm in which he commented on former DNC chair Donna Brazile’s new book alleging the DNC fixed the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump said the public “deserves” a probe of Clinton and the DNC after Brazile’s claims.
“This is real collusion and dishonesty. Major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering – where is our Justice Department?”.
On his first visit to the region, the president will stop in Japan, South Korea and China before attending regional summits in Vietnam and the Philippines.
Addressing the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program is expected to be the dominant concern of Mr. Trump’s overseas trip. The relationship between Mr. Trump and leader Kim Jong Un has lately been strained, characterized by an often surreal exchange of threats of annihilation. The North has conducted a number of nuclear and missile tests and has signaled that its nuclear program is making progress.
Some strain between the U.S. and South Korea has arisen in recent months. Mr. Tump has suggested that Seoul should pay the entire cost of a U.S. missile defense system in the South that many there don’t even want. He also threatened to end a hard-won U.S.-South Korean free trade agreement that past American presidents had portrayed as an alliance bulwark. In China, Trump may push Beijing on trade barriers and better implementation of U.N. sanctions on North Korea. Tokyo has some concerns about Trump’s tough talk on trade, as well as the possibility that U.S. military action against North Korea could endanger Japan.
The president said he thinks it will be a very “successful” trip, adding there is a lot of “goodwill” in those relationships.
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