- Beat the press: Trump holds news conference in White House to celebrate his first weeks in office and bashes the media
- White House has been rocked by crisis over leaks which led to Trump firing national security adviser Mike Flynn
- Flynn lied to Mike Pence the vice-president and had to go, Trump said - making clear that he demanded the ex-general's resignation
- 'You have a lower approval rating than Congress,' he said, shooting eye-daggers at CNN correspondent Jim Acosta. 'I think that's right'
- 'I'm changing it from "fake news," though,' Trump warned reporters, quipping that he will rebrand his favorite verbal weapon as 'very fake news'
Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that his administration is 'running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I cannot get my cabinet approved.'
He ignored a week which saw him fire his national security adviser for lying to the vice president, and a mounting tide of leaks from inside his White House and his intelligence agencies – instead turning on the media.
The president complained that the national press corps, his most reliable long-time political sparring partner, continues to portray his work unfairly, suggesting that dishonest reporters are responsible for the lack of credit he gets from the public.
He jabbed and jabbed over what he has called 'fake news' reports, ultimately announcing a change of vocabulary. 'I'm changing it from "fake news," though. "Very fake news",' he quipped.
'I turn on the TV, open the newspapers – and I see stories of chaos, chaos,' Trump complained in his first solo press conference since taking over the Oval Office.
'Yet it is the exact opposite.'
'Much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York and Los Angeles speaks not for the people, but for the special interests,' he claimed, renewing a campaign theme that at one time drew thousands in sports arenas to yell 'CNN sucks!' at the top of their lungs.
Don't believe a word you read: Trump claimed his administration was a 'finely-tuned machine'
Lying media: Trump used the bully pulpit to launch attack after attack against the White House press corps
CNN (AND THE BBC!) IN THE PRESIDENT'S CROSSHAIRS
He took direct aim at the cable news network, saying both that he watches it and can no longer stomach its bias.
'I mean, I watch CNN. It's so much anger and hatred, and just – the hatred!' Trump said. 'I mean, I don't watch it anymore.'
'You have a lower approval rating than Congress,' he said, shooting eye-daggers at CNN correspondent Jim Acosta. 'I think that's right.'
Acosta tried to smooth out the lumps, as Trump has famously described his late father's approach to conflict mediation, insisting: 'We don't hate you. Just passing that along.'
Trump's response was to wonder aloud if he should grant the journalist a second question since 'your ratings aren't as good as some of the other people waiting.'
The president took the unusual step of singling out a specific cable news anchor for ridicule, saying late-night CNN host Don Lemon is always on the attack.
'You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is always almost exclusive anti-Trump,' he said.
'The good news is he doesn't have good ratings.'
Confrontation: Trump went head-to-head with Jim Acosta, CNN's White House correspondent - rebranding his 'fake news' insult to 'VERY fake news'
Under attack: Reporters were the focus of the president's anger as he used the East Room to launch salvo after salvo at the media
'I know when you're telling the truth and when you're not,' the president scolded.
'The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way.'
Late in the press conference the president called on a TV journalist with a British accent.
TRUMP'S VERBAL SALVOS AT THE PRESS
The president used the East Room to launch attack after attack on the media.
'I mean, I watch CNN. It's so much anger and hatred, and just – the hatred!'
On the media generally:
'I turn on the TV, open the newspapers – and I see stories of chaos, chaos.'
On the New York Times:
'Front page, big massive story. And it was nasty.'
On claims Russia hacked the election:
'Russia – this is fake news put out by the media.'
On the BBC:
'Here's another beauty'
On the headlines he expects from the press conference:
'Tomorrow they will say, "Donald Trump rants and raves at the press." I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you you're dishonest people.'
'Where are you from?' he asked.
'BBC,' came the reply. The man was BBC North America editor Jon Sopel.
'Here's another beauty,' an exasperated Trump complained.
'It's a good line,' the jovial Sopel played along. 'Impartial, free and fair.'
'Yeah, sure. Just like CNN, right?' the president asked him.
TRUMP SAYS HE 'INHERITED A MESS' FROM OBAMA
The president claimed Thursday that he came into office amid a world crumbling at its foundations and with the threat of a disintegrating economy handing over his head – and gets little credit from reporters for taking action.
'As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It is a mess, at home and abroad, a mess,' Trump said.
'Jobs are pouring out of the country ... mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East, a disaster. North Korea!'
'ISIS has spread like cancer. Another mess I inherited,' he said.
'We will take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.'
Trump dropped one passive-aggressive slap into his routine, saying that his anti-terror policies have benefited journalists as much as any other subset of Americans.
'We have taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country ... working night and day to keep you safe – including reporters safe.'
TRUMP SAYS REPORTERS LIMIT HIS EFFECTIVENESS
Trump's chief practical complaint – that the smooth running of his administrative gears has gone unnoticed – took the form of a lament that his chief of staff has been forced to focus on crisis communications instead of issues management.
'This is a fine-tuned machine and Reince happens to be doing a good job, but half his job is putting out lies by the press,' he said.
Deposed liar: Mike Flynn, the national security advisor who Trump fired this week, was axed because he lied to Mike Pence, the vice-president
Accusation: 'Some of the media is fantastic, I have to say. They are honest and fantastic. Much of it is not,' Trump said
'You take a look at Reince. He's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires! I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame. Because he'd rather be working on healthcare. He'd rather be working on taxes.
And he said his diplomatic approaches to foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin have been hampered by unfair press coverage that rockets around the world on the Internet at the speed of electrons.
'I love to negotiate things. I do it really well. ... But I want to just tell you: The false reporting by the media – by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting – makes it harder to make a deal with Russia,' he said.
'The press honestly is out of control,' he exclaimed at one point. 'The level of dishonesty is out of control.'
What chaos? White House press secretary Sean Spicer yukked it up on Thursday after he retrieved Trump's notes from the podium in the White House's East Room
Meet the press secretary: Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, was watching as his boss attacked the media
MELANIA IS COMING
Trump defended his wife Melania and confirmed that she will indeed be moving to Washington, D.C.
'Melania goes back and forth and once Barron finishes school, it's hard to take a child out of school with a few months left, she and Barron will be moving over to the White House,' Trump told reporters.
Trump was responding to reports that suggested the first lady would stay living in New York City permanently, as she currently resides in the family's Trump Tower penthouse.
He criticized his wife's treatment in the press and talked about how long he's known her and how successful she was as a model
'I think she's a great representative for this country,' the president said.
'And a funny thing happens because she gets so unfairly maligned, the things they say – I've known her for a long time, she was a very successful person,' he continued, speaking of the length of time he's known his third wife, who he married in 2005.
'She was a very successful model. She did really well. She would go home at night and didn't even want to go out with people. She was a private person. She was always the highest quality that you'll ever find,' the president said.
Since inauguration day, Melania Trump has only been seen in D.C. twice.
She made a brief appearance in the area last week, before hopping on Air Force One with her husband and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, for a weekend away at Mar-a-Lago, what the president calls his 'winter White House.'
INTELLIGENCE LEAKS AND RUSSIA IN THE 'DISHONEST' PRESS
The president bashed reporters, lined up in rows before him like schoolchildren, for turning intelligence leaks into false stories, citing recent examples in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
'The leaks are absolutely real,' he said. 'The news is fake because – so much of the news is fake.'
Trump cited 'classified information that was given illegally' to reporters, material that linked his outgoing national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn with phone calls to the Russian ambassador before Trump became president.
'Russia is fake news,' he proclaimed. 'Russia – this is fake news put out by the media.'
Trump blamed the mini-scandal on 'people, probably from the Obama administration,' who he presumes were behind dispensing classified information about Flynn's phone calls to hungry reporters.
Trump himself defended Flynn on Thursday but suggested that the story's media footprint was far out of proportion with its real-world meaning.
Talk of Flynn's Russia ties, he said, 'was all a fake-news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats, and the press plays right into it.'
Trump expressed relief at seeing a course-correction in the news, as reporters dig more deeply into where the leaks came from.
'The nice thing is, I see it starting to turn, when people are starting to look at ... the illegal, giving out classified information,' he said.
The president is caught in the noose of power – too substantial and juicy a meal for the media to ignore, and too thin-skinned a target to let bygones be bygones.
He said Thursday that while he holds 'good' reporters in high esteem, the 'bad' ones get in the way.
'I hope we can correct it, because there's nobody I have more respect for – well, maybe a little – than reporters, than good reporters,' Trump added. 'It's very important to me, especially in this position.'
Watching: High-profile Trump advocate and senior counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was at the press conference
Front row seats: The president's senior aides were in the front of the press conference including (from bottom) Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, and in the second row Omarosa Manigault
TRUMP PREPS HIS SHTICK FOR CAMPAIGN-STYLE RALLY
'I don't mind bad stories,' he said, renewing another campaign speech theme just two days before he's scheduled to give the first campaign-style address of his presidency during a Florida rally.
'I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it's true ... but I'm not okay when it is fake.'
The rally themes seemed to return to front-of-mind in sequence, with the President of the United States dredging up a May 2016 Times story that portrayed him as a callous misogynist running the company he built.
'Front page, big massive story. And it was nasty,' he recalled.
Trump claimed the women cited in the piece 'called, they said, "We never said that. We like Mr. Trump." They called up my office: "We like Mr. Trump. We never said that".'
He even brought vanquished Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton back into vogue, asserting that he will be a more challenging adversary for Putin than she would have been, had she beaten him.
'Does anybody really think Hillary Clinton would be tougher on Russia than Donald Trump? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Okay?' he asked.
Even Thursday's press conference itself, Trump said, was a throwback to the days when he held them more than once a month as he made his case for the presidency.
President Trump tangled with Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (right) on Thursday, and the Congressional Black Caucus member shoved him back
Maryland Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings said Thursday that Donald Trump invented part of a story he told about a planned meeting between the two men that never happened.
'I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings. And he was all excited,' Trump told reporter April Ryan – who, like Cummings, is a vocal advocate for African-Americans.
Ryan made headlines of her own this week following an angry confrontation with Trump aide Omarosa Manigault.
American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan – made famous this week for feuding with Omarosa – asked Trump about urban issues on Thursday
'And then he said, "Oh, I can't move – it might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting." I was all set to have the meeting," the president said. 'We called, called, called, called – they can't make a meeting with him. Every day I walk in, I said, "I would like to meet with him".'
The story about Cummings, a vocal Congressional Black Caucus member, was meant as an example of how difficult it can be for a president to work with monolithic opposition groups. The caucus includes only one Republican.
And the Maryland Democrat, he suggested, may have been waved off the meeting by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader.
'He was probably told by Schumer or somebody like that – some other lightweight – he was probably told: "Don't meet with Trump, it's bad politics",' the president said. 'And that's part of the problem with this country.'
Cummings didn't deny that he at one point had a White House meeting on his calendar, or that he had pulled out. But he disputed that Schumer had ordered him to cancel.
'I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,' Cummings said in a statement. 'Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President.'
Trump lectured rows of reporters lined up like schoolchildren, telling them he would be rebranding 'fake news' to 'very fake news'
'I won with news conferences, and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people listening to you people, that's for sure,' he said.
'Tomorrow they will say, "Donald Trump rants and raves at the press." I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you you're dishonest people.'
Trump, as is his custom, hedged his bets with a handful of right-leaning news outlets represented in the East Room of the White House: 'Some of the media is fantastic, I have to say. They are honest and fantastic. Much of it is not.'
But he emphasized that press conferences, like his prolific Twitter feed, are among the tools he will continue using to execute an end-run around a political press that he believes will never treat him fairly.
'The distortion ... we are not going to let it happen because I am here, again, to take my message straight to the people,' he said.
'I want to see an honest press,' he said later. 'The public doesn't believe you people anymore. Now maybe I had something to do with that? I don't know.'
TRUMP V 'FAKE NEWS' CNN - THE REMATCH
Trump called on CNN , who he routinely insults as 'fake news' at his White House press conference and took a shot at network president Jeff Zucker.
Trump called on CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta, whom he lambasted at a previous press conference.
'Just because of the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I just want to ask you, sir...' Acosta began as he caught Trump's attention.
Trump responded that, 'I'm changing it from fake news, though,' before announcing he would call the network 'very fake news.'
'For the record, we don't hate you, I don't hate you,' Acosta said at the start, apparently attempting to mend fences.
'Ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job,' Trump shot back, referencing the network's CEO.
Then Acosta lightened things up by mentioning that he wasn't related to Trump's new labor secretary nominee, Alex Acosta.
'I am not related, sir. No. I do like the sound of Secretary Acosta, I must say.'
Trump responded: 'I looked at that name. I said, wait a minute, is there any relation there? Alex Acosta.'
'I said, 'Do me a favor, go back and check the family tree,' Trump quipped.
Then he lectured: 'But if you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me.
CNN's Jim Acosta sparred with President Clinton during a White House press conference Thursday
'But if you go - as an example, you're CNN, I mean it's story after story after story is bad. I won. I won. And the other thing, chaos because zero chaos. We are running - this is a fine-tuned machine.'
Then the president mentioned the 'Russia scam you guys are building' based on 'illegal leaks,' in reference to reports
Trump continually returned to his gripes about the media, having opened his unexpected press conference with a long harangue about the 'mess' he inherited and the coverage he gets.
'I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true and, you know, over a course of time, I'll make mistakes and you'll write badly and I'm OK with that. 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 said.
Trump went out of his way to praise CNN rival Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.
''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.'
'I watched this morning a couple of the networks,' Trump said. 'And I have to say, Fox & Friends in the morning, they're very honorable people. They're very – not because they're good, because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show. That's all I can say. It's the most honest.'
'But the tone, Jim. If you look – the hatred,' Trump complained.
'Not you. Your organization's terrible, Trump told Acosta as he tried to ask a question in January.
'Quiet, quiet ... Don't be rude,' Trump said. 'I'm not gonna give you a question: you are fake news,' Trump said.
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