WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary denunciation Thursday of his critics and media reports that his White House is in chaos, complaining he inherited a “mess” and slamming stories that his campaign was constantly in contact with Russia as “fake news.”
It will immediately go down as a stunning moment in modern American political history, as presidents have rarely betrayed such a sense of anger and grievance so graphically or so early in their administrations.
“I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media,” Trump said, later slamming leaks to the press from the intelligence community — some of which led to the resignation of his national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“The leaks are real. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake,” Trump said.
While it was a marked contrast with the normal dynamics of a presidential news conference, the East Room show was vintage Trump. He touted his own poll numbers, victory over Hillary Clinton and discussed cable TV ratings and panel discussions.
“I’m here again, to take my message straight to the people. As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.”
Trump was repeatedly pressed on whether his campaign staff had been in contact with Russia.
“Nobody that I know of. How many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years,” Trump said.
The general impression was of a president who is deeply frustrated at the way his new White House is being portrayed and who had decided to take matters into his own hands with a dramatic intervention.
“I’m here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration,” Trump said, after quickly announcing his new pick for labor secretary, Alexander Acosta.
“We have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” he said.
And saying he resented picking up newspapers and turning on the television to hear reports that his White House was in chaos, Trump said, “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
Trump’s appearance betrayed apparent deep frustration not just with the media coverage of his White House and a desire to talk directly to the American people but also possibly dismay with aides charged with defending him.
“I don’t mind a bad story if it’s true,” Trump said, but complained much of what was reported about his administration was unfair.
Trump also accused holdovers from the Obama administration of leaking out information about his alleged contacts with Moscow to hammer his administration.
“I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don’t have any deals in Russia,” Trump said.
“Russia is fake news.”
By Stephen Collinson, CNN
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