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Today’s press conference was supposed to focus on President Trump’s new nominee to head the Department of Labor, Alexander Acosta. But after a brief mention of Acosta and his resume, the president went into a lengthy monologue reminiscent of one of his campaign speeches. He rattled off his accomplishments and once again attacked the media.
ABC, CBS and NBC broke from their regularly scheduled programming to broadcast the announcement. George Stephanopoulos anchored ABC News’ coverage. Scott Pelley and John Dickerson led coverage for CBS News, and Lester Holt led NBC News’ coverage. And Trump took full advantage of the significant audience.
Citing a Rasmussen poll, Trump said his approval rating is at 55 percent. “The Stock market hit record numbers today, and there has been a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world,” he said.
Trump also spoke about what he believes will be a massive crowd at a rally he is holding in Florida.
The president also attacked the news media. “The press has become so dishonest … we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people if we don’t talk about it,” he said. “The level of dishonesty is out of control. I’ll allow you to ask more questions about this later.”
Order of questions:
Mara Liasson from NPR asked about the resignation of Michael Flynn. Trump responded: “Mike Flynn is a fine person. He respectfully gave his resignation. I was not happy with the way that information was given. It was classified information that was given illegally … The Russia situation is fake news created by the press. … The press should be ashamed of themselves. … He didn’t tell the vice president of the United States, and that’s why he resigned.”
Next question: “Did anyone from your team communicate with the Russian government or Russian intelligence during the campaign?” Trump’s response: “The New York Times wrote a fake story about this. … Paul Manafort is a respected man, and he said he has had nothing to do with Russia. I personally own nothing in Russia. I have no deals in Russia.”
The president also brought up a “disgraceful front-page story” from The Wall Street Journal that “isn’t true.” He also said, “The political media is more dishonest than the financial media.”
Next question: Fox News’s John Roberts asked about the leaks.
“The news is fake; the leaks are real. … There’s no one I have more respect for than good reporters. I don’t mind bad stories as long as they’re true. I watch CNN. It’s so much anger and hatred. I think the press has a lower approval rating than Congress,” Trump said.
“I have nothing to do with Russia. … Nobody is mentioning that Hillary is receiving questions before the debates. If that had happened before the debates, you would put me in the electric chair.”
Next question: NBC’s Kristen Welker: “Did you direct Mike Flynn to resign?”
“No. I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Mike Flynn was doing his job.”
Next question from CNN’s Jim Acosta: “We don’t hate you. The leaks are real, but the news is fake? I don’t understand.”
CBS’s Major Garrett asked a few questions, and BBC asked about the travel ban. Trump compared the BBC to CNN, calling them “another beauty.”
A reporter asked about first lady Melania Trump, something Trump said he appreciated. “She just opened up the visitors center, which I love. She feels very strongly about women’s issues. She’s a great representative for this country and for women. She was always the highest quality you will ever find. She has been treated so unfairly by the press. And Ivanka will be a fabulous representative as well.”
April Ryan asked about the inner cities. “What will be the urban agenda and the HBCU executive order?”
“The executive order will be very good for everyone involved,” Trump said. “I was very strong on the inner cities. We did much better with people in the inner cities that anyone thought. They are living in hell. It’s a very difficult situation, but we have places in this country that we have to fix and we need to help African American and Hispanic Americans who are living in hell.”
Two reporters asked about anti-Semitism. “I am the least anti-Semitic and the least racist person you will ever meet,” Trump said.