“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, you got me,’ ” Mr. Trump said, adding that there would not be a “Perry Mason moment,” a reference to the old television courtroom drama. “I will absolutely, firmly ask the question.”
Mr. Trump still made it clear on Friday that he considered the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether his campaign worked with Moscow in the effort, more than anything an impediment to a warmer relationship that he was eager to forge with Mr. Putin.
“We do have a political problem where, you know, in the United States we have this stupidity going on — pure stupidity,” Mr. Trump said. “Anything you do, it’s always going to be, ‘Oh, Russia, he loves Russia.’ I love the United States, but I love getting along with Russia. And China. And other countries.”
Mr. Trump was in a pugilistic mood during the news conference, taking aim at reporters who inquired about whether his harsh treatment of NATO allies and criticism of Mrs. May on her own soil was a gift to Mr. Putin.
“That’s such dishonesty reporting,” Mr. Trump said. Later, he rebuffed a reporter for CNN, calling the network “fake news,” and instead calling on a representative for Fox News, his preferred outlet, saying, “Let’s go to a real network.”
Even as he tried to pivot away from his criticism of Mrs. May, Mr. Trump did confirm perhaps the most damaging element of the report in The Sun, which quoted him saying that the prime minister had rejected his advice about how to approach Brexit and was therefore headed down a damaging path. He said he still believed Mrs. May should follow his advice.
But he also went out of his way to praise Mrs. May. “I also said this incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job,” Mr. Trump said, turning to Mrs. May. “A great job, and I mean that.”