Trump Undercuts Giuliani About Payments to Stormy Daniels

WASHINGTON — President Trump undercut his attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on Friday, and said the former New York mayor will eventually get the facts right regarding a payment to a pornographic actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

Everything “has been said incorrectly,” Mr. Trump said, blaming the media coverage and Mr. Giuliani’s short time on the job.

Mr. Giuliani, who joined Mr. Trump’s legal team last month, “started a day ago,” Mr. Trump said, speaking to reporters on Friday as he left Washington to attend a National Rifle Association convention in Dallas.

“He’s a great guy,” Mr. Trump said. “He’ll get his facts straight.”

It was the first time the president addressed the inconsistent narrative about the payment made by his personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

Mr. Giuliani kicked off the confusion with an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, surprising even some of Mr. Trump’s other attorneys.

In a series of Twitter posts the following morning, the president backed up what Mr. Giuliani said. But, on Friday, Mr. Trump said that everything said about the transaction “has been said incorrectly.”

“It’s actually very simple,” the president said, without elaboration.

Mr. Trump also sought on Friday to dispel reports of tension between him and John F. Kelly, his chief of staff, telling reporters that “we have a great relationship. He’s doing a great job as chief of staff. I could not be more happy. So I just want to tell you that.”

A New York Times report this week documented the “cold truce” between the two men as Mr. Trump has soured on Mr. Kelly’s efforts to impose order on the chaotic White House. The story noted that Mr. Trump has taken to venting about his chief of staff to friends, while Mr. Kelly complains that “I don’t need this” after dressing-downs from the president.

An earlier report from NBC News suggested that Mr. Kelly had called the president “an idiot” in private and viewed himself as the only bulwark against chaotic decision-making and dangerous decisions by Mr. Trump.

On Friday, Mr. Kelly accompanied the president on the Marine One helicopter ride from the White House to Joint Base Andrews, where Air Force One was waiting to take Mr. Trump to Dallas. In a public appearance seemingly designed to underscore their relationship, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Trump walked together from the helicopter to a group of reporters waiting nearby.

“The New York Times has falsely reported, said things that are absolutely false. So I just want to tell you that,” Mr. Trump said, turning to Mr. Kelly to make comments.

The president also addressed the ongoing special counsel investigation, led by Robert S. Mueller III, and said he would be happy to sit down and answer Mr. Mueller’s questions. But he said that the investigation is a witch hunt being run by Democrats, and his lawyers will not let him.

“I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me,” Mr. Trump said. But the investigation “is a very unfair thing. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.”

Mr. Trump said all of the investigators are Democrats and incorrectly said Mr. Mueller worked for former President Barack Obama for eight years. Mr. Mueller, a longtime Republican, was appointed by former President George W. Bush. He served his 10-year-term as the F.B.I. director, and Mr. Obama asked him to stay on for another two years. Mr. Obama then named James D. Comey to the post, and he served during the rest of the Obama administration. Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey a year ago, a move that ultimately led to Mr. Mueller’s appointment.

Mr. Trump also discussed the current negotiations with North Korea and said his administration was in constant contact about the fate of three Americans held there. On Thursday, Mr. Giuliani said the Americans would be released that day.

“A lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think you’re going to see very good things.”

Mr. Trump denied he would use reductions in American troops in South Korea as a bargaining chip in upcoming negotiations with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. The New York Times reported on Thursday that Mr. Trump had ordered the Pentagon to develop options for troop reductions.

The president acknowledged that, in the long-term, he wanted to cut troops. “I have to tell you that at some point into the future, I would like to save the money,” he said. “You know, we have 32,000 troops there.”

But he said that nobody was pressing the United States to reduce troops at the moment, adding, “Troops are not on the table, absolutely.”

Mr. Trump said the United States and North Korea had agreed on a date and place for the meeting and would announce it very soon.

Michael D. Shear and Mark Landler contributed reporting.