WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump held a lengthy, unscheduled press conference Thursday in which he lashed out at the media and attempted to paint an optimistic picture of his presidency that seemed sharply at odds with the turmoil that has marked his first four weeks in office.
“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people,” Trump said in his opening remarks. “The press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
Trump claimed that he had “inherited a mess” from President Barack Obama and accused the media of trying to distort the steps his administration has taken to address national security and law enforcement concerns.
He failed to mention that Obama inherited an economy that had fallen into a major recession with nearly 600,000 job losses and an unemployment rate at nearly 7 percent. Obama left office in January with job growth.
“The media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made and they’re not happy about it for whatever reason,” Trump claimed.
Trump said his term was running smoothly, despite signs that his administration is having a rocky start, including a Labor Secretary nominee who removed himself from consideration and staff in-fighting that frequently finds it’s way into the press.
“I see stories of chaos,” Trump said. “Yet it is the exact opposite. “This administration is running like a fine- tuned machine.”
During the hastily arranged press conference, Trump responded to pressing questions that reporters have not yet had an opportunity to ask.
Trump rejected a New York Times report that members of the president’s inner circle had frequent communication with Russian officials, claiming that he had no knowledge to suggest the conversations took place.
Trump defended both his decision to fire Michael Flynn after the National Security advisor acknowledged that he had given the Vice President and others incomplete information and his decision to not tell Mike Pence that he received false information.
“The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly,” Trump said, adding that he didn’t tell Pence because he did not believe that Flynn did anything wrong in his discussions with the Russian ambassador.
Trump also said that he did not order Flynn to discuss sanctions during his telephone conversations, but that he would find nothing wrong with Flynn doing so.
After railing against leaks from the intelligence community, Trump said that the leaks that have made it into the press are, in fact, real, but that the news is still “fake.”
“The leaks are absolutely real,” Trump said. “The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”
The press conference was initially announced as an opportunity for Trump to introduce his next Secretary of Labor nominee, Alexander Acosta, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board under the Bush administration.
Trump made his announcement on Acosta brief, saying that he expects him to be “tremendous” in his new role.