Trump Defends Accomplishments, Attacks Media at Press Conference
By William Gallo February 16, 2017
Donald Trump used his first solo press conference as president Thursday to deliver a broad defense of his turbulent first month in office, denying reports of chaos within the White House and insisting his administration is running "like a fine-tuned machine."
The press conference, which lasted over 75 minutes, was at turns combative and comical, with Trump alternately joking with and then lecturing the media gathered in the White House East Room.
Trump touted a long list of what he said were accomplishments, including withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, implementing a federal government hiring freeze and eliminating government regulations.
"We have made incredible progress," Trump said. "I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done."
But Trump insisted he could have accomplished more were it not for what he termed the "mess" left by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. "I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess," he said.
In what has become a standard part of the president's public appearances, Trump also took aim at the news media, which he accused of downplaying his accomplishments and making up "fake news" in order to damage his administration.
"The press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control," he said.
At one point, Trump played media critic – praising Fox & Friends as the "most honest morning show." He also downgraded CNN from "fake news" – his usual label for the news channel – to "very fake news."
Not all of Trump's statements during the press conference were factual. At one point, Trump incorrectly claimed his November election victory was the "biggest Electoral College win since [former President] Ronald Reagan," a claim he has made repeatedly in recent days.
When a reporter pointed out that the assertion was inaccurate, Trump replied: "Well, I don't know. I was given that information. I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?"
Trump's first month as president has been rocky and unpredictable. On a near-daily basis, reports emerge of sharp internal divisions within the White House, with senior officials leaking information to the media, apparently to gain an advantage.
This week, national security adviser Michael Flynn was ousted after it was revealed that he had misled White House officials about the nature of his conversations with Russian officials during the presidential transition period.
Trump has also suffered a steady stream of legal setbacks related to his executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and shutting down the refugee program.
But on Thursday, Trump downplayed those setbacks.
"I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos," Trump said. "Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine."
Trump also vowed to investigate the "criminal leaks" that led to the ouster of Flynn, even while acknowledging that it was he who requested that Flynn resign.
"Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation," Trump said. "He respectfully gave it."
Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. may have violated a federal statute that prohibits private citizens from conducting foreign policy without the permission of the U.S. government.
But Trump said that he didn't see anything wrong with Flynn's communications.
"What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information. That's the real problem," he said.
Role of Russia
Trump also dismissed news reports suggesting members of his campaign were in touch with Russian officials during the presidential election.
"Nobody I know of" was in contact with the Russian government, Trump said. "I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does."
Some U.S. intelligence officials have concluded Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election, possibly with the intention of helping Trump win. Trump has rejected those claims, instead attacking the credibility of U.S. intelligence services and slamming the media for focusing on the issue.
"I just want to tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia," he said.
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