Trump: I never worked for Russia

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE on Monday denied he “worked for Russia” in his most direct response yet to a bombshell report that the FBI became so worried about his behavior toward Moscow that it opened an investigation into whether he was working on its behalf.

“I never worked for Russia,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving to speak at a farmers’ convention in New Orleans.

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"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,” he continued.

The New York Times reported Friday the FBI began the counterintelligence probe after Trump fired James ComeyJames Brien ComeyCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight MORE as the bureau’s director in order to examine whether his actions threatened national security and amounted to obstruction of justice.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE took over that investigation soon afterward as part of the broader probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, which Trump has long blasted as a “witch hunt.”

Trump on Monday called the FBI personnel who opened the investigation into his conduct “scoundrels” and “dirty cops” and defended his decision to fire Comey as “a great thing I did for our country.”

Trump noted that former top FBI officials, such as acting Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMcCabe accuses Trump officials of withholding evidence in lawsuit over firing McCabe: Being accused of treason by Trump 'quite honestly terrifying' Horowitz report is damning for the FBI and unsettling for the rest of us MORE, were dismissed or pushed out of their jobs and suggested that “others are going to go.”

Some Trump allies were startled after he declined during a weekend interview to unequivocally deny that he was working on behalf of Russia.

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who is a personal friend of Trump's, asked him on Saturday if he is or has ever worked for Moscow, and the president responded by calling it “most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked” and blasted the Times piece as “the most insulting article I’ve ever had written.”

“If you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing,” he said.

Trump went on to say no president has taken a tougher stance against Russia than him.

The president also pushed back on a Washington Post report that he went to extraordinary lengths to hide the details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it “fake news.”

The Post reported that Trump after a 2017 meeting with Putin took notes from his interpreter and ordered him not to discuss details of the meeting with other U.S. officials.

Democrats said the reports underscored the need for Mueller to conclude the Russia investigation without political interference.

“The Mueller investigation needs to continue to its logical conclusion,” Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsGOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Bezos phone breach escalates fears over Saudi hacking MORE (D-Del.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Updated at 10:32 a.m.