WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump called an unscheduled news conference Thursday that lasted about an hour and 15 minutes to defend his administration, which he said is “running like a fine-tuned machine.”
As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, the surprise news conference was a White House event like few people have ever seen. It had Trump both answering reporters and questioning them right back.
“I inherited a mess,” Trump said. “Beginning on day one, our administration went to work to tackle these challenges.”
The news conference came as the White House battles the rocky rollout of the president’s travel ban and the high-profile exit of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said that he turns on the TV and opens the newspapers and sees “stories of chaos” but the truth is that “it is the exact opposite.”
“Chaos? There’s zero chaos,” Trump said. “We are running — this is a fine-tuned machine.”
He continued: “We have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done.”
The president blamed what he called the hatred of the media for obscuring his accomplishments.
“The press has become so dishonest. The press is out of control. The tone is such hatred,” Trump said. “Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’ I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You’re dishonest people.”
Trump said he will take his message “straight to the people.”
The president’s criticism of the media has grown amid reports that members of his administration had associations or communications with the Russian government.
The president said there is “distortion,” but he hopes everyone can get along. But he added, “maybe we won’t and that’s OK.” He also said reports about campaign aides’ contacts with Russians are untrue, saying, “Russia is fake news.”
“I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don’t have any deals in Russia,” he said.
The president also recounted on why he asked Flynn to resign on Monday night – fallout from Flynn’s phone call with the Russians during the transition.
“No, I didn’t direct him to talk sanctions,” Trump said. “I didn’t direct him, but I would’ve directed him to because that’s his job.”
He said that he was “not happy” with how information about Flynn’s phone call to a Russian diplomat was relayed to Vice President Mike Pence.
But Trump said what Flynn did “wasn’t wrong” and after that, Trump called attention to what he said is “classified information that was given illegally.”
“What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given the information,” he said, “because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem.”
He also said he’s got someone good to replace Flynn, which made the decision to let him go easier. But late Thursday, Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward rejected President Trump’s offer to take over the post, CBS News’ Major Garrett reported.
CBS News’ Major Garrett asked what Trump’s response will be to the Russian spy ship along the East Coast.
“The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone in this country’s going to say, ‘Oh, it’s so great!’ Trump said. “That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”
Trump was also challenged on his claim that he got the most electoral votes since Ronald Reagan.
Trump won 304 electoral votes in the election last year – though he has said 306. As reported by CBS News, George H.W. Bush won 426 votes in 1988, Bill Clinton won 370 votes in 1992 and 379 in 1996, and Barack Obama won 365 in 2008 and 306 in 2012. Reagan won 489 in 1980 and 525 in 1984.
“Well, I don’t know. I was given that information,” Trump said. “I have seen that information around.”
Trump also said his administration will release a new executive order on immigration next week to — in his words — “comprehensively protect our country.” The order will come after his rally Saturday in Florida.
His administration said it does not want a larger appellate panel to review a ruling keeping its travel ban on hold and will instead revise the original order which restricted immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The administration said in a court filing on Thursday that it will replace the travel ban with a new one in the near future.
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