President Donald Trump in a news conference Thursday at the White House aired grievances of reporters as dishonest while touting that his fledgling administration is running “like a fine-tuned machine” despite having “inherited a mess.”
He argued his policies seek to better the country, protecting it from the Islamic State and keeping jobs from being shipped overseas, among other goals.
He accused the news media of ignoring such progress and instead portraying his first weeks as chaotic.
“The tone is such hatred,” he said. “I’m really not a bad person . . . I do get good ratings, you have to admit that.”
Earlier this week, the president’s first labor secretary pick withdrew his nomination amid lagging Senate support and his national security adviser resigned after reports he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia before Trump took office.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers of both parties are seeking answers over Trump’s ties to Russia.
The president called the last-minute news conference to announce his new nominee to lead the Labor Department, but spoke just minutes about R. Alexander Acosta before launching into a heated defense of his presidency.
“To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess at home and abroad,” he said of jobs that are “pouring out” of the United States and “mass instability overseas.”
Trump was asked several times whether his campaign aides were in touch with Russia at a time when U.S. intelligence officers were uncovering evidence that the Kremlin were meddling in the presidential election.
“The three people that they talked about all totally deny it,” the president said of aides named in news reports. “And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “nicely” called him to congratulate him on his election and inauguration.
Trump was asked for a yes or no on whether anyone on his campaign communicated with Russia.
Trump called stories about his ties to Russia a “ruse” by journalists he accused of being aligned with the Democratic Party.
A Kremlin spokesman has denied that Russia regularly communicated with Trump’s campaign.
The president also said he didn’t instruct Michael Flynn to call a Russian ambassador during the transition but stressed that he forced out the national security adviser for misleading Vice President Mike Pence. Trump said Flynn was fulfilling his duty in communicating with Russia.
“I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him, because that’s his job,” Trump said.
The Washington Post reported that Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he discussed sanctions against Russia with the country’s ambassador.
CNN reported that the FBI is not expected to pursue charges against Flynn.
The president has focused on the leaking of classified information by the U.S. intelligence community as illegal. He has called news coverage stemming from the tips “fake news.”
“The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake,” Trump said.
The president additionally indicated that his administration won’t hash out the challenges to his travel ban in court.
“We’re issuing a new executive action next week that will comprehensively protect our country,” he said.
A federal appeals court declined to lift the block placed on his executive order, which, in part, temporarily barred nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries.
“We had a bad court . . . We had a bad decision. We’re going to keep going with that decision,” he said. “We’re going to put in a new executive order next week some time.”
He said he is fulfilling promises to the people who elected him, telling reporters he defied expectations by winning 306 electoral votes.
Officially he won with 304 electoral votes.
“I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan,” Trump said.
Presidents Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008, Bill Clinton in 1996 and 1992, and George H.W. Bush in 1988 had more electoral votes.
“I don’t know. I was given that information . . . I’ve seen that information around,” Trump told a reporter who challenged his statement.
The president also asked a black reporter to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, asking her, “Are they friends of yours?”
The caucus linked its missive to the president in a tweet that read: “Hi, @realDonaldTrump. We’re the CBC. We sent you a letter on January 19, but you never wrote us back. Sad!”
Trump later Thursday signed legislation to block regulation that he is hurting the country’s coal industry.
“Everything you’re doing for our industry is very much needed,” Michael Nelson of the Marion County Coal Company in West Virginia said at the bill-signing ceremony.