Trump renews attack on ‘nasty’ and ‘unprofessional’ media

US president denies White House issued doctored image of journalist Jim Acosta

US president Donald Trump had a lengthy media exchange before leaving Washington  for   Paris. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

US president Donald Trump had a lengthy media exchange before leaving Washington for Paris. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

 

US president Donald Trump has renewed his attack on the media, describing CNN reporter Jim Acosta as an “unprofessional guy” with a “loud voice” and accusing an African-American female reporter of asking a “stupid question”.

In a lengthy media exchange before leaving Washington for Paris where he is due to attend the armistice centenary commemorations this weekend, Mr Trump also lashed out at African-American reporter April Ryan, whom he denounced as “very nasty” and a “loser”. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.”

Speaking outside the White House, he said that the office of the president should be treated with “respect”, warning that more journalists could be barred.

He also denied that the White House had issued a doctored image to defend its decision to remove Mr Acosta’s press accreditation after he engaged in a verbal altercation with the president during Wednesday’s press conference.

The image distributed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which originated with controversial website InfoWars, was simply a “close-up” and “was not doctored”, he said.

“They gave a close-up view; that’s not doctoring” said the president, visibly irritated, as he accused the reporter who asked him the question of being “dishonest”.

Mueller investigation

Mr Trump also said that he did not know Matt Whitaker, the man he has appointed to replace Jeff Sessions as acting attorney general.

“I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” he said, adding: “He’s a highly respected man, especially by law enforcement. I think he’s going to do a great job. He’s there in an acting position. He’s a very strong person, a very strong personality.”

Mr Trump has, in fact, met Mr Whitaker several times when he was chief of staff to Mr Sessions.

Mr Whitaker, a conservative former Republican Senate candidate from Iowa, was appointed as chief of staff to the attorney general last year with the encouragement of outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn. Before his appointment to the department of justice he was a familiar contributor on US cable television shows, where he regularly criticised the Mueller investigation.

His comments on the investigation have prompted calls by Democrats, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, for Mr Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. But indications from the justice department are that this is unlikely. Instead Mr Whitaker is set to take over responsibility for the Mueller investigation from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

Mr Whitaker’s involvement with a Florida patent company that was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission this year could pose a problem for his Senate confirmation hearing.

‘Crooked stuff’

Mr Trump said he had not talked to Mr Whitaker about how to handle the Russia investigation. “I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker about it,” he said.

He said that Mr Whitaker, now the country’s top law enforcement official, had been confirmed at “the highest level” as he had been confirmed by the US Senate when he was appointed US attorney in Iowa. He complained that Robert Mueller had not been subject to a Senate confirmation hearing before he began serving as a special counsel.

The president repeated his claims that the 18-month-old Russian investigation, which is being led by former FBI director Mr Mueller, is a “phony hoax”. “I didn’t speak to Russians. The fact is, I was a much better candidate than Hillary Clinton. ”

The president also addressed the ongoing vote count in Florida, claiming there was “crooked stuff” happening. “What’s going on in Florida is a disgrace,” he said. “All of a sudden they are finding votes out of nowhere.”

Incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson is slightly ahead of Republican challenger Rick Scott in the race for Florida’s Senate seat. A possible recount could also be held in the gubernatorial race, despite Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum conceding the election to Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night.