After a chaotic week in the White House (see: Michael Flynn’s exit and the dramatic withdrawal of Andrew Puzder’s nomination), President Donald Trump decided to give Press Secretary Sean Spicer the night off and leave the political firefighting to the only person he really trusts to handle the job: himself. This was the first press conference Trump has personally attended since officially becoming president. The hour and fifteen-minute event was defiant, confusing and a prime example of what Donald Trump does best. If you missed the full press conference, consider this the highlight reel.
“the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real […] The news is fake because so much of the news is fake. “
THE QUESTION: “I just want to get you to clarify this very important point. Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign? And on the leaks, is it fake news or are these real leaks?”
TRUMP’S RESPONSE: “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. So one thing that I felt it was very important to do — and I hope we can correct it. Because there’s nobody I have more respect for — well, maybe a little bit but the reporters, good reporters.”
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? These two ideas directly contradict themselves. If the reported leaks coming from intelligence agencies are real (re: the New York Times’ story on Trump’s team having repeated communications with Russia) then how can those reports — which are simply relaying that information to the public — be fake? Your guess is as good as ours on this. But as per usual, “fake news” was a phrase Trump used frequently throughout the press conference (seven times to be exact). Speaking of fake news…
“[I] got 306 Electoral College votes. I wasn’t supposed to get 222 […] I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.”
THE QUESTION: “Very simply, you said that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan with 304, 306 elector votes. The fact that President Obama got 365 […] and George Bush 426 when he won as president […] Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive as being fake when you’re providing information that’s fake?”
TRUMP’S RESPONSE: “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?”
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? It was a substantial victory, sure. But regardless of his win, the numbers Trump provided just before this question was asked are factually incorrect. This isn’t a new strategy for Trump’s team though. Sean Spicer opened his first press conference stating that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway is now infamous for her description of the non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre.” Trump didn’t say much to explain why Americans should trust him after sharing “fake news.” Instead, he deflected the focus from his role in sharing false information to blaming others for providing it. But here’s the thing: Donald Trump is the president. The information he shares with the American people should be double — even triple — checked before being relayed publicly, especially when it’s coming directly from him.
“Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it […] I was not happy with the way that information was given.”
THE QUESTION: Inaudible, but presumably requesting comment regarding Michael Flynn’s recent resignation.
TRUMP’S RESPONSE: “Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given.
He didn’t have to do that because what he did wasn’t wrong — what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem.”
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? In case you’re not up to speed on the Michael Flynn drama, here’s the gist: National security adviser Michael Flynn’s resigned on Monday, following reports that he had conversations with Russian intelligence officials about US sanctions. At first, he told Vice President Mike Pence that he did not mention the US sanctions during the conversations with Russia, but later admitted he actually may have.
Despite Trump’s dismissal of any wrongdoing, Flynn actually isn’t entirely in the clear just yet. While investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election, the FBI interviewed Flynn and asked him about his communication with Russia. If it turns out he lied to the FBI, that could very well result in a legal violation.
“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
THE QUESTION: No question, this comment was part of Trump’s initial address.
TRUMP’S RESPONSE: “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.”
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? We’re not in the White House. So the reality of exactly how functional his team is behind closed doors is a mystery. But if you take this week’s hirings and firings at face value, they don’t exactly tell a tale of an administration running smoothly. Here are the facts: This week, his national security adviser Michael Flynn was asked to resign. Andrew Puzder, his nominee for labor secretary, withdrew from consideration after accusations of domestic abuse resurfaced. Trump’s pick for Flynn’s replacement, Robert Hayward, turned down the president’s job offer. Currently, only 12 of his 22 cabinet nominations have been filled.
“It would be great if we could get along with Russia.”
THE QUESTION: “We have no doubt that you believe this story [about Russian communications] is fake news, but for those who believe there is something to it, is there anything that you have learned over these last few weeks that you might be able to reveal that might ease their concern that this isn’t fake news?”
TRUMP’S RESPONSE: “I don’t think they believe it. Well, I guess one of the reasons I’m here today is to tell you 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.
We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.”
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia is complicated and, TBH, entirely confusing. He’s not doing himself any favors by refusing to clear things up on this front. First, he says the reported leaks on Russia are real. Then here, he calls the leaks a “ruse.” When asked about three concerning actions conducted by Russia that happened this past week (a ballistic missile test, a Russian plane that buzzed a US destroyer and a spy vessel spotted off the coast of the United States), Trump deemed all of those instances as “not good.” But then he goes on to say, “It would be great if we could get along with Russia.” We can’t tell you where Trump’s head is at in regards to Russia, but we’ll go out on a limb and say this won’t be the last time the relationship will be discussed.
You can watch the full press conference in the video above or read the transcript in full here.
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(Photo via Getty)