President Trump spent an hour having fun with the press and hit all the right notes
Donald Trump mounted an aggressive defense of his young presidency Thursday, lambasting reports that his campaign advisers had inappropriate contact with Russian officials and vowing to crack down on the leaking of classified information. It was vintage Trump as he had fun performing and using the White House press as his foil.
The president denounced media reports of a chaotic start to his administration marked by his contentious executive order – rejected by a federal appeals court – to place a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Trump said he would announce a “new and very comprehensive order to protect our people” next week.
“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” Trump declared in a lengthy news conference that saw the new commander in chief repeatedly interrupting reporters’ questions and airing his grievances.
His early presidency beset by damaging leaks and a burst of staff turmoil, Trump used a hastily called press conference to blast the media’s coverage of his administration in his strongest terms yet. He claimed the press is “out of control,” reports on his team’s ties to Russia are “fake,” and news outlets are attacking him because they oppose his agenda.
Here is the full press conference
“The media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on the pledges that we made, and they’re not happy about it,” Trump declared at the White House.
The president spoke and took questions for more than an hour and 15 minutes, even joking with some reporters toward the end and saying he was having fun. In a bid to preempt negative coverage of his remarks, Trump insisted he was not “ranting and raving.” But he lamented that the “tone” of coverage of his administration is one of “such hatred.”
Throughout the encounter the new president delivered recurring criticism of the news media, accusing it of being “out of control” and promising to take his message “straight to the people.”
He dismissed recent reports in The New York Times and on CNN that Trump campaign aides had been in contact with Russian officials before his election. Trump called Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager who has ties to Ukraine and Russia, a “respected man.”
Pressed repeatedly, Trump said that “nobody that I know of” on his campaign staff had contacted Russian officials. He called such reports a “ruse” and said he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Trump added, “Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.”
He also staunchly defended his administration’s work on everything from the economy to energy to security. “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” he said.
The press conference was held days after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser over a controversy regarding his past contacts with Russia’s ambassador. Those contacts emerged in news reports. Fast food chain CEO Andrew Puzder also withdrew from consideration for labor secretary on Wednesday amid deepening scrutiny of his personal and professional past.
Trump on Thursday personally denied having any contact or connections with Russia, saying: “I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no deals there. I don’t know anything.”
While acknowledging he sought Flynn’s resignation, he also said Flynn was just doing his job by contacting Russia. He said Flynn was asked to resign because he was dishonest about the details of the call with Vice President Mike Pence.
And he dismissed recent reports that campaign aides had been in contact with Russian officials before his election. Trump called the reports a “ruse” and said he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Trump added, “Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.”
In a free-wheeling event that, before Trump, would have been unprecedented in a modern presidential news conference, the president by turns teased and lambasted members of the press corps.
Toward the end of the press conference, Trump summed up his complaints by suggesting he was being blamed for problems that have existed for years: “I didn’t come along and divide this country. This country was seriously divided before I got here.”
In the wake of the Flynn reports and other damaging stories, Trump also has vowed to root out those leaking sensitive information.
“We’re going to find the leakers. … They’re going to pay a big price for leaking,” Trump said at a meeting ahead of the press conference.
Quotes in this story came from both Fox News and video from the White House