Trump news conference: ‘Ranting and raving’ explained
Conference became one of the most compelling political spectacles in recent years
Donald Trump’s press conference on Thursday was billed as the announcement of the latest member of his administration, but it turned into one of the most compelling political spectacles in recent years as the US president attacked his critics and defended his record.
He veered from topic to topic, demanding to know whether questions would be friendly and describing media reports about his links to Russia as both fake and the result of leaks. Here are the highlights.
The Russian spy ship
After one of the numerous attempts by reporters to get Trump to answer questions over his ties with Russia, the president - unprompted - brought up the possibility he could order an attack on a Russian spy ship in international waters off the US coast. But to do so, he said, would not be good for relations with Moscow.
“The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water. Everyone in this country’s going to say ‘oh, it’s so great’.
“That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”
Trump defended his former national security adviser’s actions and said he thought Flynn had done nothing wrong. “I don’t think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right ... But he didn’t tell the vice-president of the United States the facts.
“And then he didn’t remember. And that just wasn’t acceptable to me.”
Leaks to the media
At times Trump veered between somewhat contradictory positions. He said the leaks to the media that led to Flynn’s resignation were “real”, but the articles reporting them amounted to “fake news”.
Trump told one reporter: “Well the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real.
“You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”
One of the themes Trump returned to again and again was what he called dishonesty in the media.
Taking one example, he said the director of national intelligence had directly contradicted a Wall Street Journal article that reported security sources as saying some information was being kept from Trump to avoid it being leaked.
Trump claimed no one had asked him for comment before publication. His office was quoted on the paper’s front page.
He also confirmed the veracity of other stories, which he simultaneously denounced.
Trump also repeatedly made more general claims of fakery by news organisations, without backing them up with any specific complaints or facts.
“I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure,” he told the reporters.
“Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves at the press’. I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you.
“You know, you’re dishonest people. But I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.
“But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be ‘Donald Trump rants and raves’. I’m not ranting and raving.”
The US president attacked CNN in particular, claiming its on-air panels are “almost exclusive anti-Trump”.
He said: “I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred ... The public gets it, you know. Look, when I go to rallies, they turn around, they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN.”
When the BBC’s Jon Sopel got up to ask a question and identified himself, Trump - with a heavy hint of sarcasm - said: “Here’s another beauty.”
“That’s a good line. Impartial, free and fair,” Sopel replied.
“Yeah. Sure. Just like CNN right?” Trump shot back.
Later, Sopel tweeted: “My bosses have approved a new business card for me: Jon Sopel, Another Beauty, North America Editor.”
Trump sought to shift the blame over the blocking of his executive order on immigration. It was not, he insisted, the result of it being badly prepared by him and his staff, but of a poor judgment by the two separate courts that found against him.
“Let me tell you about the travel ban. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision. We had a court that’s been overturned. Again, may be wrong. But I think it’s 80 per cent of the time, a lot.” Trump did not cite any evidence for that claim.
Fact-checkers Snopes have found it to be false.
“We had a court that gave us what I consider to be, with great respect, a very bad decision. Very bad for the safety and security of our country. The rollout was perfect.”
Race and anti-semitism
Continuing his theme on the tone of the reporters, Trump accused a Jewish reporter of asking him a difficult question about recent instances of antisemitism in America, when, Trump claimed, he had promised to ask a “simple, easy” one.
He angrily told the reporter to “sit down”, adding: “Number one, I am the least antisemitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.”
When the journalist tried to interject, Trump shouted over him: “Quiet, quiet, quiet. See, he lied that he was going to get up and ask a straight, simple question, so, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”
Later, he insisted that antisemitic acts that have been reported were actually the work of anti-Trump activists. Again, he offered no evidence.
Later, he asked April Ryan - a black journalist with American Urban Radio Networks - if she was friends with the Congressional Black Caucus.
She had asked him if he would meet with the CBC. After asking for clarification on who the group was, Trump told her:
“Well, I would. I tell you what, 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 replied, before Trump pressed on: “Are they friends of yours?”
Finally, he told her: “I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus, I think it’s great.”
The electoral college
Trump was picked up for inaccurately claiming to have scored the “biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan” at last year’s election.
Told by one reporter that he had done nothing of the sort (in fact George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won more electoral college votes), Trump said: “I’m skipping that information, I don’t know, I was just given ... we had a very, very big margin.”
Pressed on why Americans should trust him when he gave them false information, he responded: “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?”