President Donald Trump assailed the media and defended his administration as a "fine-tuned machine" Thursday in a combative and rambling news conference at the White House. For 77 minutes, Trump took questions, frequently interrupting reporters, dismissing CNN and other outlets as "fake news." Trump angrily denied reports that his administration is in chaos following Monday’s firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
President Donald Trump: "I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved."
President Trump dismissed a New York Times report that members of his presidential campaign had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the lead-up to November’s election. Trump called the report a "joke" and falsely stated it has been discredited. He later vowed to put a stop to leaks in his administration, saying the leaks were real but the "news is fake."
Jonathan Karl: "And on the leaks, is it fake news, or are these real leaks?"
President Donald Trump: "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."
We’ll have more excerpts of President Trump’s White House news conference after headlines.
Across the country Thursday, thousands of immigrants closed their businesses, refused to go to work, and kept their children home from school for a "Day Without Immigrants." It was a protest against President Trump’s crackdown against immigration and immigrants living in the United States. The protests in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, Raleigh, Austin and other cities came after Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, sent shock waves through immigrant communities by arresting at least 680 people in a series of raids last week. In Washington, D.C., hundreds of immigrants marched from the Mount Pleasant neighborhood to the White House. This is Irma Andino, an employee at Capital One bank and an immigrant from El Salvador.
Irma Andino: "I’m hoping that [the protest] opens Congress’s eyes, because if they were separated from their families, they wouldn’t like it. And like if I went to my country now, I wouldn’t even know where to go or what to do. I don’t know it. I belong here. I’m part of here. I grew up here. So I think it’s important to show support and to try to open their eyes that we’re not here to be criminals, or, you know, everybody is the same. We are all loved in God’s eyes."
Thursday’s immigration actions came as President Trump said he will issue a new executive order on immigration rather than challenge a federal court’s freeze on his ban on refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations. Trump said at Thursday’s press conference he will sign the new executive order next week.
President Donald Trump: "As far as the new order, the new order is going to be very much tailored to the—what I consider to be a very bad decision. But we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything—in some ways, more. But we’re tailoring it now to the decision. We have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it."
President Trump’s January 27 executive order canceled tens of thousands of visas, stranding travelers worldwide. It prompted unprecedented mass protests at airports around the U.S. Earlier this month, a unanimous panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a stay on the order, saying the government failed to show that anyone from the seven majority-Muslim nations targeted in the travel ban had committed acts of terrorism.
In New York City, demonstrators gathered outside a Manhattan federal building Thursday to protest recent ICE raids, including last Friday’s arrest of Daniel Ramirez Medina in Washington state. Ramirez has permission to live and work in the United States under President Obama’s program DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. His arrest alarmed immigrant communities who fear the Trump administration could soon target other DACA recipients. This is Yatziri Tovar, an immigrant who was brought to the U.S. as a child.
Yatziri Tovar: "We’re here because we demand the release of Daniel. He is a DACA recipient. He was arrested, and he is now being detained. And they’re saying that they’re going to deport him. You know, when DACA came around, that was one of the promises that was made to us. And he has no criminal record, and there’s no reason why he should be detained."
A hearing in Daniel Ramirez’s case is scheduled for today. On Thursday, the Justice Department claimed in a legal brief that Ramirez was arrested because agents suspected he might be part of a gang. Meanwhile, lawyers for Ramirez said Thursday that immigration officials doctored a document to make it seem as though Ramirez admitted he belonged to a criminal gang. A photograph of Ramirez’s original statement read, "I came in and the officers said I have gang affiliation with gangs so I wear an orange uniform." Lawyers say the document was altered to read, "I have gang affiliation with gangs so I wear an orange uniform." We’ll have more on the case of Daniel Ramirez Medina and Thursday’s "Day Without Immigrants" after headlines.
Opponents of the Trump administration have planned a series of over 100 strikes and protests in cities across the U.S. today. Organizers of the "Strike4Democracy" actions say they’re looking to move beyond demonstrations to resist the Trump administration along economic lines. They’re also building momentum for planned strikes on March 8—International Women’s Day—and May 1, International Workers’ Day.
President Trump has named longtime Republican lawyer Alex Acosta to be his new nominee to head the Labor Department after his first pick, fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, withdrew Wednesday. Acosta’s labor experience includes eight months as a member of the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush. He has drawn scrutiny for his time as a division leader at Bush’s Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he oversaw a senior official who hired conservative lawyers who were actively opposed to the division’s mission, including the prosecution of voting rights violations and police abuse. We’ll have more on Alex Acosta later in the broadcast.
On Capitol Hill, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was repeatedly interrupted by Jewish and Palestinian protesters Thursday as he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
David Friedman: "It’s a great privilege to address this committee, which has done so much to advance America’s interests around the world."
Protester 1: "Mr. Friedman also said that Palestinian refugees don’t have a claim to the land, don’t have a connection to Palestine."
Protester 2: "David Friedman, you promote racism, fund illegal settlements. We will not be silenced. You do not represent us, and you will never represent us."
David Friedman has no diplomatic experience and worked as a bankruptcy lawyer for Donald Trump over the last 15 years. He served as president of an organization which raised millions of dollars to support illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. He’s also called liberal American Jews "worse than kapos"—a reference to Jewish prisoners who worked for the Nazis during the Holocaust. On Thursday, Friedman apologized for the remarks.
David Friedman: "I provided some context for my remarks, but that was not in the nature of an excuse. There is no excuse. I will, if—if—if you—if you want me to rationalize it or justify it, I cannot. These were hurtful words, and I deeply regret them. They’re not reflective of my nature or my character."
David Friedman told senators that he sees a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the best possibility for peace in the region. That’s despite his past claims to the contrary and yesterday’s comment from President Trump backing away from two decades of U.S. support for a two-state solution.
President Trump’s newest nominee to serve as national security adviser, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the position on Thursday, reportedly telling a friend the offer amounted to a "s*** sandwich." CNN reports Harward used the expletive to describe a White House in chaos after President Trump fired his previous national security adviser, Michael Flynn, on Monday. Harward said in an official statement he turned down the job to address "financial and family issues."
In Oklahoma, a district judge ordered state Attorney General Scott Pruitt to release thousands of pages of correspondence with oil, coal and gas companies, as Republicans vowed to press ahead with a vote today on whether to confirm Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Thursday’s ruling cited Pruitt’s "abject failure" to follow the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Pruitt’s office will have until next Tuesday to release about 3,000 emails that reportedly show his close ties to executives at energy companies, including Koch Industries. He’s expected to be narrowly confirmed by the Senate before the emails are made public.
Meanwhile, employees of the EPA are mounting a campaign urging their senators to vote against Scott Pruitt’s confirmation. Members of the National Treasury Employees Union say they fear Pruitt will suppress scientific findings and undermine their work, and that the Trump administration might even seek to abolish the EPA entirely.
In Pakistan, a suicide bomb blast ripped through a dance celebration at a Sufi Muslim shrine Thursday, killing at least 77 people and wounding hundreds of worshipers in a remote part of the southern Sindh province. Survivors of the bombing described a horrific scene.
Mohammad Ashfaq: "As soon as I entered the shrine, I heard a dreadful sound. The first thought that came to my mind was that this could not be a bomb blast, but then the next thought that came to my mind was that we were dead. It was like doomsday."
An offshoot of the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest single assault in Pakistan in recent years.
The Pentagon has admitted that U.S. warplanes fired depleted uranium munitions during air raids in Syria, despite a vow not to use the toxic and radioactive weapons in the battlefield. Foreign Policy magazine reported this week that Air Force A-10 attack planes fired more than 5,000 rounds of 30mm depleted uranium rounds during a pair of assaults on convoys in an ISIS-controlled part of eastern Syria in November 2015. Depleted uranium is both toxic and highly radioactive, and many medical experts have linked its use to cancer and birth defects.
The House of Representatives has approved a measure that would pave the way for states to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other women’s healthcare providers. The resolution, passed Thursday, would overturn a rule adopted by the Obama administration during its final weeks in office that bars states from withholding federal family planning dollars from providers that offer abortions. The measure now heads to the Senate, where it has strong support among majority Republicans.
In Florida, the state’s Supreme Court blocked a law Thursday requiring a woman seeking an abortion to wait at least 24 hours after first meeting with her doctor. The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the ruling, saying in a statement, "Politicians have no business interfering with a woman’s private health care decisions, including the decision to have an abortion."
And in New York, the board of directors of the city’s public library system has voted to name Harlem’s 115th Street library after Harry Belafonte. The legendary activist, civil rights leader and entertainer was born not far from the library that will now bear his name. Belafonte was one of Martin Luther King’s closest confidants and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. He turns 90 years old on March 1.
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