“I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country,” Trump said in an on-the-record statement. “And we have very important things to be doing right now, whether it’s trade deals, whether it’s military, whether it’s stopping nuclear — all of the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country.”
He also reiterated his previous claim that the Democrats are using the Russia investigation as an “excuse.”
“It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way,” he added. “That’s all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we’re not together as a country. And I think it’s a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we’re going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world.”
The attendees at the lunch included Chris Wallace and Bret Baier from Fox News, John Dickerson and Scott Pelley from CBS News; George Stephanopoulos and David Muir from ABC News; Savannah Guthrie from NBC News; Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer from CNN; and Greta Van Susteren from MSNBC, among others. It was set as an off-the-record session, but Trump’s statement was made on the record and reported by Blitzer on CNN. ABC News said that Trump’s comment was in response to a question from Muir.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was named special counsel in the investigation, Justice Department officials announced on Wednesday. The appointment puts Mueller at the head of the probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In a statement at the time, the White House, on the President’s behalf, said, “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.”
He later, however, struck a different tone via Twitter, asking why there was never a special counsel appointed to investigate “all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration.” He also bemoaned the probe as “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”
Thursday’s meeting wasn’t the first time Trump has privately addressed TV anchors and reporters. In November, shortly after winning the election, he called another off-the-record private gathering for top TV executives and anchors at Trump Tower.