Donald Trump says he went to an underground White House bunker for an “inspection”, rather than for protection from protesters.
The US president was taken to the facility amid demonstrations nearby on Friday, with reports at the time suggesting he had been there for almost an hour along with First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron.
But while the Republican admitted he had been to the bunker, he insisted it had only been briefly and had nothing to do with the protests.
He told Fox News Radio: “It was much more for the inspection. I was there for a tiny, little period of time.
“They said it would be a good time to go down and take a look because maybe sometime you’re going to need it.”
Mr Trump went on to repeat his threat of military action in New York, continuing his efforts to link civil unrest following the death of George Floyd to liberal leaders in the city.
“If they don’t get their act straightened out I will solve it. I’ll solve it fast,” he said.
More from US
George Floyd death: Family demand justice as protesters defy city curfews
George Floyd death: Why his killing in Minnesota could be the tipping point for the US
Hackers steal secrets from US nuclear missile contractor
George Floyd death: Trump hits back after being called a ‘narcissist’ by rival Joe Biden
George Floyd death: Donald Trump to send in army if cities fail to deal with violent protests
George Floyd death: Can Donald Trump deploy the military on US soil?
The president also denied tear gas was used on peaceful protesters outside a historic church in Washington DC to clear the way for him to stage a photo opportunity – contradicting the accounts of many who were present.
He said: “Now, when I went, I didn’t say ‘Oh, move them out.’ I didn’t know who was there.”
Having renewed his attacks on prominent figures including MSNBC anchor and former congressman Joe Scarborough and CNN presenter Chris Cuomo, he was asked why he chose to focus on such spats amid an ongoing national crisis.
“I just do it, you know, people hit me, I hit back,” he said.
It came as US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said he opposed the use of active-duty soldiers to contain the protests, which Mr Trump has suggested.
:: Listen to Divided States on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Spreaker
Mr Esper said troops in a law enforcement role should be used in “only in the most urgent and dire of situations”.
“We are not in one of those situations now,” he added.
Protests have raged across the US since the death of 46-year-old Mr Floyd in Minneapolis, after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for at least eight minutes.
Having previously criticised his successor’s handling of the crisis, former president Barack Obama is due to deliver a speech on Wednesday at 10pm UK time (5pm EST).