"I never worked for Russia," Trump says as he leaves for New Orleans

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(CBS NEWS) - President Trump told reporters Monday morning he never worked for Russia, faced with a New York Times report over the weekend that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation after he fired FBI Director James Comey to determine whether he worked, wittingly or unwittingly, for the Kremlin. Mr. Trump issued the denial on his way to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans.

"I never worked for Russia. And you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia," Mr. Trump told reporters on the snowy South Lawn of the White House. "Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question because it's a whole big fat hoax."

Mr. Trump also declared those who launched the Russia probe to be "known scoundrels."

The president has been forced to defend himself against the dual controversies of the longest-ever government shutdown and two explosive weekend reports about his interactions with Russia.

Mr. Trump spent the snowy weekend in Washington lashing out on Twitter and Fox News against Democrats, and over explosive reports in the Washington Post and New York Times raising further questions about his relationship with the Kremlin.

Over the weekend, the president decried The Times report claiming the FBI opened a counterintelligence probe into Mr. Trump the day after he fired then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, with the goal of determining whether Mr. Trump was working for the Russians. But at the time, he didn't explicitly deny working to benefit Russia.

"I think it's the most insulting thing I have ever been asked," Mr. Trump told Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro when she asked if he has ever worked for Russia. "I think it's the most insulting article I've ever had written, and if you read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing."

The Washington Post also reported over the weekend that Mr. Trump went to "extraordinary lengths" to hide details of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin from top U.S. officials. Mr. Trump said he simply had a conversation with Putin, as he would with any world leader.

Meanwhile, the government shutdown is now the longest on record, and hope of a breakthrough appears bleak. Mr. Trump is still demanding at least $5.7 billion for his border wall, while Democrats insist they won't fund it. Most affected federal employees missed their first paycheck Friday.

"I'm in the White House, waiting. The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay. They are having fun and not even talking!" Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday morning.

First published on January 14, 2019

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