A defiant President Trump declared on Thursday that he has all but given up on negotiations with Congress over his border wall and will proceed without lawmakers even as he dismissed any suggestions of wrongdoing in the investigations that have ensnared his associates.
In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump called the talks “a waste of time” and indicated he will most likely take action on his own when they officially end in two weeks. At the same time, he expressed optimism about reaching a trade deal with China and denied being at odds with his intelligence chiefs.
“I think Nancy Pelosi is hurting our country very badly by doing what’s she doing and, ultimately, I think I’ve set the table very nicely,” Mr. Trump said. While he would not directly say that he plans to declare a national emergency to build the wall, he added: “I’ve set the table. I’ve set the stage for doing what I’m going to do.”
Addressing a wide range of subjects, Mr. Trump brushed off the investigations that have consumed so much of his presidency, saying that his lawyers have been reassured by the outgoing deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, that the president himself was not a target. Mr. Trump said he never spoke with Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime associate who was indicted last week, about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails it posted during the 2016 election, nor did he direct anyone to do so.
“No, I didn’t. I never did,” he said of speaking with Mr. Stone on the subject. Did he ever direct anyone to get in touch with Mr. Stone about WikiLeaks? “Never did,” he repeated.
The president dismissed the importance of the proposed Trump Tower his team was seeking to build in Moscow at the height of the election, and he denied his own lawyer’s account of how late in the campaign he was still discussing the project. He also denied that his Twitter messages about former associates who are cooperating with prosecutors amount to witness tampering.
The interview came on a busy day at the White House as the president seeks to rebound from the 35-day partial government shutdown that failed to force Democrats to finance his wall. Fresh from a meeting with China’s vice premier, Mr. Trump seemed relaxed and confident as he sought to make his case, distributing handouts including, at one point, printed copies of two tweets sent out in his name even as he was speaking with his visitors.
The interview was arranged after Mr. Trump reached out to A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, and invited him for an off-the-record dinner. Mr. Sulzberger declined, saying he would prefer an on-the-record interview that included two of his reporters. The president agreed.
Mr. Trump sat behind the Resolute Desk, sipping periodically from a glass of Diet Coke with ice cubes floating in it and resting on a gold coaster. His acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; his senior communications adviser, Bill Shine; and his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, sat in on the session with Mr. Sulzberger and the two Times reporters.
Mr. Trump spoke with a low voice, his arms folded tightly during questions about the Russia inquiry. But he was more good humored at other points. He grew most animated when describing media coverage he considers unfair. At one point, he scoffed at the notion that he was making money from the presidency, calling the job a “loser” financially.
“I lost massive amounts of money doing this job,” he said. “This is not the money. This one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don’t need money. This is one of the great losers of all time. But they’ll say that somebody from some country stayed at a hotel. And I’ll say, ‘Yeah.’ But I lose, I mean, the numbers are incredible.”
Still, he dismissed any speculation that he might not run for re-election next year. “I love this job,” he said. And he said he did not think he would face a challenger for the Republican presidential nomination, even though several candidates are mulling a race. “I don’t see it,” he said. “I have great support in the party.”
Watching the emerging Democratic field, Mr. Trump said the opposition party has “really drifted far left,” and he derided Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as damaged while expressing admiration for the campaign kickoff of Senator Kamala Harris of California, who drew thousands of supporters.
“I would say the best opening so far would be Kamala Harris,” he said, pronouncing it “Kameela.” “I would say in terms of the opening act, I would say, would be her.” He added, “A better crowd, better crowd, better enthusiasm.”
He had tough words as well for Ms. Pelosi, who has adamantly refused to approve even a dollar of the $5.7 billion he has sought for his border wall.
“Some of the others were very flat,” he added. “I do think Elizabeth Warren’s been hurt very badly with the Pocahontas trap,” he added, using a favorite slur to refer to the senator’s effort to prove she has Native American heritage. “I think she’s been hurt badly. I may be wrong, but I think that was a big part of her credibility and now all of a sudden it’s gone.”
“I’ve actually always gotten along with her, but now I don’t think I will any more,” Mr. Trump said. “I think she’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country. If she doesn’t approve the wall, the rest of it’s just a waste of money and time and energy because it’s desperately needed.”
Mr. Trump has been considering an emergency declaration to spend money on a wall even without congressional approval, an action that would most likely draw a court challenge, and he said Ms. Pelosi would not be able to stop him. “I’ll continue to build the wall, and we’ll get the wall finished,” he said. “Now whether or not I declare a national emergency — that you’ll see.”
On another point of contention, the president noted that he had summoned his intelligence chiefs, including Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, to the White House because he had heard they contradicted his foreign policy during testimony to Congress this week. Mr. Coats and the others told lawmakers that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear arsenal, that Iran has not restarted work to build one and that the Islamic State was not defeated, all assessments that clash with the president’s worldview.
But Mr. Trump said the intelligence chiefs told him their presentation was misinterpreted. “They said, ‘Sir, our testimony was totally mischaracterized,’” Mr. Trump said. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And when you read their testimony and you read their statements, it was mischaracterized by the media.”
Mr. Trump said he has likewise received reassurances from Mr. Rosenstein, who until Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired in November was overseeing the Russia investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
But he denied having anything to do with Mr. Stone’s involvement with WikiLeaks, which during the campaign posted online Democratic emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence services. He expressed sympathy for Mr. Stone for having to endure a raid by heavily armed F.B.I. agents that resulted in his arrest last week.
“He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump said. Asked if that also covered the separate investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, he said, “I don’t know about that.”
“I’ve always liked — I like Roger, he’s a character,” Mr. Trump said, insisting that the F.B.I. agents charging “a house like they did at six o’clock in the morning. I think that was a very sad thing for this country.”
Mr. Trump said he had played no role in directing White House officials to arrange for his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, to receive a top-secret clearance. Mr. Kushner’s top-secret clearance application was rejected at least once, after concerns were raised by the F.B.I. about his foreign contacts. The C.I.A., which also raised concerns about Mr. Kushner’s foreign contacts, has continued to deny him access to “sensitive compartmentalized information.”