President Trump railed against "nuclear menace" North Korea and fumed at the reports China illegally delivered oil to the Hermit Kingdom, exclaiming "That wasn't my deal!" during a wide-ranging interview Thursday with an outlet he's long derided.
During an impromptu talk with a New York Times reporter, Trump said his stance on trade with China has “been soft” in order to encourage the country to help bring an end to the North Korean nuclear threat.
But after a South Korean report Wednesday said U.S. spy satellites caught Chinese ships illegally sending oil to North Korean boats dozens of times since October, Trump told The Times that sort of transaction wasn't acceptable, adding “the only thing more important to me than trade is war.”
“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” Trump said. “If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I’m not happy about that.”
He added: “We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China."
The comment followed a tweet from Trump earlier Thursday saying: “Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”
In addition to China and North Korea, Trump spoke to The Times about several other topics that have shadowed his first year in the White House, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Trump said he believed he was “going to be treated fairly” by Mueller and ultimately be vindicated.
"I can only tell you that there is absolutely no collusion," Trump said. "Everybody knows it. And you know who knows it better than anybody? The Democrats. They walk around blinking at each other."
He added he believed the investigation was meritless, calling it a “ruse” devised by members of the Democratic Party “as an excuse for losing an election,” and lamented the inquiry made “the country look very bad."
“It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Trump said. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”
Regarding the investigation and Attorney General Jeff Session’s recusal -- an event that ultimately led to Mueller's appointment -- Trump unexpectedly touted his predecessor’s attorney general, Eric Holder, to The Times. In what appeared to be a veiled shot at Sessions, Trump praised Holder for his “loyalty” to former President Barack Obama, saying Holder “totally protected him.”
“And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest," Trump said.
Regarding his administration’s success’ during the year, Trump hailed his recently-passed tax bill, boasting he knows “the details of taxes better than anybody” and knows “the details of health care better than most.”
When asked about Alabama Republican Roy Moore’s recent failed Senate bid, Trump told the outlet he felt he had to give his endorsement “as the head of the party.”
Trump added he believed he’d “win another four years” in the White House, and that news outlets would eventually back him because otherwise “their ratings” would go “down the tubes.”