Donald Trump's combative press conference: the six most significant moments
Russia and 'fake news' dominates Trump press conference
17 February 2017 • 12:36pm
Donald Trump insisted that he had “inherited a mess” in his most vociferous defence of his presidency to date during a wide-ranging 75 minute impromptu press conference on Thursday. Mr Trump claimed his administration was operating like a “fine-tuned machine” and railed against claims to the contrary during a conference initially intended as an introduction for his new cabinet nominee. He jolted from anger, to humour to defiance, saying that while he knew the headlines would read that he had “ranted and raved” he was actually enjoying himself throughout the unorthodox performance.
Mr Trump claimed reports that his senior campaign aides had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials were a “ruse” designed to undermine his presidency. He twice declined to say whether the reports were accurate, though, until finally clarifying that “nobody that I know of” had held conversations with Russian agents. "The good thing is it's starting to turn. People are starting to focus on the illegal giving out classified information,” he said. He also declined to criticise Vladimir Putin for stepping up his aggression toward the US, saying he believed negative media coverage had convinced Mr Putin that a potential “deal” was off.
2: Michael Flynn
Mr Trump said he was not concerned that Michael Flynn, until recently his national security adviser, had discussed sanctions to be handed down by Barack Obama with the Russian ambassador last year despite a law against negotiating with foreign powers. “Mike was doing his job,” Mr Trump said, adding that he “would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it.” Mr Trump said the reason he demanded Mr Flynn’s resignation was that the retired general had not recounted the conversations accurately to Mike Pence, the vice-president.
3: Electoral College
Mr Trump repeated a false claim that his had been “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.” In fact, Mr Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012 had both been by significantly larger margins than Mr Trump’s. Indeed, Bill Clinton’s margins of victory in 1992 and 1996 were both far larger, and in 1988 George HW Bush won a whopping 426 electoral college votes, compared to 304 for Mr Trump. When confronted with those facts Mr Trump gave a stuttering reply, saying he had been “given that information” and suggesting that he could not be held responsible for any inaccuracies. “Well, I don't know, I was given that information. I was given, I actually I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?” he asked.
4: Travel ban
Mr Trump said the introduction of his controversial immigration and refugee ban had been “very smooth”, and that a “bad court” had made the wrong ruling in blocking it. He said he would issue a new executive order next week to protect the American people to lessen the effects of that “bad decision”.
5: The mediaMr Trump returned to his favourite territory of attacking the media, describing the BBC once again, with deep sarcasm, as “another beauty” and berating the astonished journalists, only to tell them: “I’d be a good reporter.” “I don't mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true,” he said. “But I'm not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.” He continued: “I see tone. You know the word ‘tone’. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such - I do get good ratings, you have to admit that - the tone is such hatred.” When a black reporter asked him whether he would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, he suggested she set up a meeting. “Are they friends of yours?” he asked.
6: MelaniaMr Trump launched a strident defence of his wife, insisting that Melania Trump was “a fantastic person” who would embrace the role of first lady. “I’ve known her a long time,” he said, speaking of his wife of 11 years. The 46-year-old, whose absence in the first three weeks of her husband’s presidency has raised eyebrows, would soon begin to work on “women’s issues”, he said.
“A funny thing happens,” said Mr Trump. “She gets so unfairly maligned. The things they say. “She would go home at night and wouldn’t even want to go out with people. She was a very private person. She was always the highest quality that you will ever find. “The things they say are so unfair,” he said.