WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump declared himself a "very stable genius" on Twitter Saturday and later at a news conference called the author of a book that questioned his mental fitness a "fraud."
His comments came Camp David in Maryland, during a weekend retreat with top administration officials and Republican congressional leaders strategizing on the year's legislative agenda, including matters such as infrastructure, immigration, welfare reform and national security.
Still, Trump's explosive rebuttal to author Michael Wolff not only opened the day, but also ensured that the president's capability for the presidency was a topic that would not go away.
In his early-morning tweets, Trump said two of his greatest assets "have been mental stability, and being, like, really smart."
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He noted that former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton "played these cards (about competence) very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try)."
"I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius ... .and a very stable genius at that!"
The book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" presents a damning portrayal of the Trump White House and has many of the president's closest advisers questioning his intelligence, leadership and maturity even as they stroke his ego with praise and attention.
It casts Trump as a man who didn't want to win the presidency, doesn't understand the weight of the office and has little grasp of policy details. One aide compared it to "trying to figure out what a child wants."
Trump and White House officials have pushed back hard on the book, which quotes senior aides variously describing the president as an "idiot," "dumb" and a "dope."
He turned up the heat during his news conference Saturday, saying he went to the "best colleges," was a "very excellent student" and came out and "made billions and billions of dollars – became one of the top business people." He said he then he went into television and for 10 years was a "tremendous success."
Wolff, he said, "doesn't know me at all" and did not receive the three hours of time with Trump that the author has claimed. "It's in his imagination." Wolff says Trump helped clear the way for the writer to hang around the West Wing for much of the president's first year in office.
But Trump said Wolff "was never in the Oval Office" and "we didn't have an interview." Then he acknowledged a "quick" interview with Wolff "a long time ago."
Trump said former top strategist Steve Bannon, who is quoted in the book as making several disparaging remarks about Trump, facilitated the access.
Even before his presidential campaign, Trump was known to be sensitive and boastful about his intelligence. In 2013, he tweeted: "Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don't feel stupid or insecure, it's not your fault."
When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was reported to have privately called Trump a moron, Trump responded by suggesting that the men compare I.Q. scores. Tillerson has denied ever questioning Trump's mental fitness.
At Saturday's news conference, Trump also said he would campaign this year for House and Senate candidates, make a dent on what he characterized as the country's unprecedented drug problem and try for a bipartisan agreement with Democrats to protect young people who as children entered the U.S. without documentation and with their parents.
He insisted that there would be no deal on immigration reform without a wall on the southern border and repeated his promise that "in some form" Mexico would pay for it. But Trump is also asking Congress for $18 billion to begin construction.
Trump also called for ending the visa lottery and another program that gives priority to relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders.
Talks between North and South Korea also came up. Trump in the past has threatened to annihilate a nuclear-armed North Korea, but said Saturday that he would talk to the country's leadership under certain conditions.
Asked about a renewed rapprochement between North and South Korea that threatens to leave out Washington, Trump said he "always believes in talking."
Trump said the recent contact between the two Koreas was a "big start"–and took credit for making it happen.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has threatened to attack the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons, "knows I'm not messing around, not even a little bit, not even 1 percent," Trump said.
Trump said he hopes North Korea gets involved in next month's Winter Olympic Games, which has been the pretext for renewing north-south talks, and added that he hopes the two countries "take it beyond the Olympics" in their talks.
Trump also expressed support for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was notably absent from the retreat. Asked about reports that Trump told his White House counsel last year to pressure Sessions not to recuse himself from the federal investigation of Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, Trump said everything he had done was "100 percent proper."
Sessions did recuse himself from the investigation, and his deputy later appointed a special prosecutor to look into the allegaions.
Trump claimed that the subject of collusion with Russia was "dead" and after a year of investigation and there was "absolutely no collusion."
But the investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials during the campaign has continued. Bannon is quoted in the book as saying that one of the meetings between campaign officials and Russians was "treasonous."
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at that June 2016 meeting and Trump's misleading claim that the discussion focused on adoption.