President Donald Trump mounted a vigorous defense of his presidency Thursday, pushing back against media reports that his campaign advisers had inappropriate contact with Russian officials and vowing to crack down on the leaking of classified information.
Throughout the news conference in the East Room of the White House, the new president delivered repeated criticism of the news media, accusing it of being ‘‘out of control’’ and promising to take his message ‘‘straight to the people.’’
He also dismissed recent reports stating that Trump campaign aides had been in contact with Russian officials before his election. Trump called the reports a ‘‘ruse’’ and said he had ‘‘nothing to do with Russia.’’ Trump added, ‘‘Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.’’
The president said his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was ‘‘just doing his job,’’ but said he was ‘‘not happy’’ with how information about Flynn’s phone call to a Russian diplomat was relayed to Vice President Mike Pence.
Among the many eyebrow-raising moments of Trump’s press conference Thursday was his request to a black reporter that she set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus?” White House correspondent April D. Ryan asked after he said he’d look “very hard” at education, health care, and other plans.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said, interrupting her. “Do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?”
“No no no, I’m just a reporter,” Ryan said.
“Are they friends of yours?” Trump asked. “Set up the meeting.”
Trump was also called out for some faulty electoral college math.
Shortly after he began his press conference, Trump stated that his electoral college win was the biggest since President Ronald Reagan before pivoting to an attack on the media.
“I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan. In other words, the media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made, and they’re not happy about it for whatever reason,” he said.
After a reporter challenged him on the assertion during a Q A, pointing out that President Obama, among others, had a larger margin, Trump said he was given the information.
Trump also spoke about foreign relations with Russia.
“I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other,” he said. “They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”