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In First Solo Press Conference, Trump Attacks Media, Claims Admin Running Like “Fine-Tuned Machine”

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On Thursday, Donald Trump held his first solo press conference as president. He began by announcing he had nominated Alexander Acosta to be labor secretary nominee, but then soon began an extended attack on the media, accusing CNN and other outlets of peddling fake news. We air excerpts of the press conference, which went on for 77 minutes.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump held his first solo press conference as president. Trump began by announcing he had nominated Alexander Acosta to be labor secretary nominee, but then Trump soon began an extended attack on the media, accusing CNN and other outlets of peddling fake news. The press conference went on for 77 minutes. Here are some of the excerpts of what happened.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it. We have to find out what’s going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. …

As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess, at home and abroad. A mess. …

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. …

OK, go ahead.

PETER ALEXANDER: Mr. President, you said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan, with 304, 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 in 2008.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I’m talking about Republican. Yeah.

PETER ALEXANDER: President Obama, 332.


PETER ALEXANDER: And George H.W. Bush, 426, when he won as president. So, why should Americans trust you?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, no, I was told—I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.

PETER ALEXANDER: I guess my question is: Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive of being fake, when you’re providing information that’s not accurate?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don’t know. I was given that information. I was given—I’ve—actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?

PETER ALEXANDER: You’re the president.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: OK, thank you. That’s a good answer.

JOHN ROBERTS: What will you do on the leaks? You have said twice today—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yes, we’re looking at them very, very, very seriously. I’ve gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies, and we’re—I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks.

JONATHAN KARL: 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. …

I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it’s true. And, you know, over a course of time, I’ll make mistakes, and you’ll write badly, and I’m OK with that. But I’m not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN. It’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.

KRISTEN WELKER: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador—


KRISTEN WELKER: —prior to your—


KRISTEN WELKER: —inauguration?


KRISTEN WELKER: But didn’t you fire him because [inaudible]—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him. But I would have directed him, because that’s his job.

JIM ACOSTA: You said that the leaks are real, but the news is fake. I guess I don’t understand. It seems that there’s a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, the reporting is fake. Look, look—

JIM ACOSTA: And if I may ask—I just want to ask one other question.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Jim, you know what it is? Here’s the thing. The public isn’t—you know, they read newspapers. They see television. They watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false, because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things. And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word “tone.” The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such—I do get good ratings. You have to admit that. The tone is such hatred. …

I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I am having a good time. 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—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 whole Russian thing, that’s a ruse. That’s a ruse. And, by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia, just so you understand that. Now, tomorrow you’ll say, “Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia. This is terrible.” It’s not terrible. It’s good. …

JON SOPEL: On the travel ban, would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government—


JON SOPEL: —the fine-tuned—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let me tell you about the travel—

JON SOPEL: Well, were there any mistakes in that?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Wait, wait, wait. I know who you are. Just wait. 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 percent of the time. A lot. We had a bad decision. We’re going to keep going with that decision. We’re going to put in a new—a new executive order next week sometime. …

REPORTER: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I told you, General Flynn, obviously, was dealing, so that’s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.

REPORTER: During the election?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, no. Nobody that I know of. Nobody that I know of.

REPORTER: So you’re not aware of any contacts during the course of the election.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, look, look. How many times do I have to answer this question?

REPORTER: Can you just say yes or no on it?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. …

Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait, wait. Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.

JAKE TURX: What we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You see, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it’s not.

JAKE TURX: It’s an important one.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s not. Not a simple question, not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question.

So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism—the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.

JAKE TURX: [inaudible]

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Quiet, quiet, quiet. See, he lied about—he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So, you know, welcome to the world of the media. …

APRIL RYAN: Well, when you say—when you say the inner cities, are you going to—are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as dealing—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Am I going include who?

APRIL RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus—


APRIL RYAN: —as well as on the—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I tell you what—do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?

APRIL RYAN: No, no, no.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

APRIL RYAN: I’m just a reporter.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, get a—set up the meeting.

APRIL RYAN: I know some of them, but I’m sure they’re watching right now.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let’s go. Set up a meeting.

AMY GOODMAN: Excerpts from President Trump’s news conference on Thursday. That last voice was April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.

When we come back, President Trump vowed to “show great heart” for recipients of President Obama’s DACA program. That’s Deferred Action for Childhood [Arrivals]. So why is DREAMer Daniel Ramirez sitting in a Tacoma, Washington, jail? Next up. Stay with us.

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