In a wild, somewhat unhinged 80-minute White House news conference this afternoon, President Donald Trump accused political reporters of hating him and printing fake news to diminish his many accomplishments and scuttle his progress in delivering on campaign promises made to the American people.
“I see the tone; the tone is such hatred,” Trump told a gathering in the East Room. “I’m really not a bad person, by the way,” he added, pointing out, “I do get good ratings – you have to admit that.”
After days of declining to take questions from the press about reports that his now-ousted National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had discussed election-tampering sanctions against Russia with a rep from that country while President Barack Obama still was in office, and that his aides had contact with Russian intel during the election, Trump’s White House had called the surprise newser for today. The president called it a reset, telling the press “it’s an honor to have you this morning” and adding, “I hope going forward we can be a little bit different and maybe get along a little bit better, if that’s possible. And maybe it’s not, and that’s OK too.”
But the newser seemed more like a gas explosion that slays six. And, over its 80-ish minutes, Trump again felt the need to hash out the legitimacy of his election win — three months after the polls closed.
Including one moment in which he boasted he’d won the electoral college vote by the largest margin since Ronald Reagan. When a reporter pointed out that was fake news — Obama, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush all did better — Trump responded, “I was given that information; I don’t know.” He used the same line later when a member of the press corrected his boasts about his Apprentice ratings, right up to his final appearance to plug that reality series at TCA.
The gathering was called to announce that, less than 24 hours after businessman Andy Puzder threw in the towel on Trump’s bid to make him Labor Secretary, Trump was naming Alexander Acosta as his new choice for the post.
And Trump did kick off the event noting Acosta’s Harvard Law degree and that he has already been through Senate confirmation hearings three times in taking previous political positions.
But if he wanted to trample on that headline, Trump could not have done a more thorough job — spending more time talking about CNN’s Jim Acosta than his new Labor pick, and Acosta’s CNN boss Jeff Zucker, how Zucker got his job, and CNN’s ratings.
Talking again about Flynn, Trump insisted he did nothing wrong as National Security Adviser if he did talk to a Russian rep about then-President Obama’s sanctions during the transition. His mistake was in not telling Trump’s veep.
“I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence – very simple,” POTUS said. “Mike was doing his job. … He was calling his counterparts.”
Trump flatly denied that any of his aides spoke to Russian intelligence during the campaign, so far as he knew. That report has been tearing up the news cycle again today.
“Speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” the President of the United States told reporters. “I have no loans in Russia, I don’t have any deals in Russia.” Russian ruler Vladimir Putin called him to congratulate him on the election and again on his inauguration, as did many other world leaders, Trump said.
The news about his campaign’s contact with Russian intel is fake news, Trump insisted, but the leaked information is real, and classified, making the leaks a criminal act. And that will be investigated, Trump said, making no attempt to reconcile those conflicting thoughts.
Trump insisted throughout the long and pugnacious exchange that he was having a good time. “I’ll be honest — I sort of enjoy this back and forth. I guess I have all my life. … But I never have seen a more dishonest media than, frankly, the political media,” he told the political media. “I thought the financial media was much more honest.”
Trump made other news, announcing that an Obamacare alternative would be unfurled in early March and that a new executive order would be unveiled next week on travel and immigration to replace the old one that has been held up in court.
Trump had promoted today’s newser earlier in the day, while meeting with House GOP supporters: “I have a little free time at about 12 o’clock. I don’t think the press will want to show up, but I will have a press conference, probably at 12 o’clock in the East Room. We had a little time between things. So if the press would like to show up. Will anybody show up to that press conference?” he asked the GOP crowd in the room. Guffawing all around.
“Historically they don’t care about these things,” Trump said of the press. “For me — they show up,” he’d simpered.