For a little while, he was able to hold it together.
President-elect Donald Trump’s first news conference in more than five months started not with the president-elect but incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer slamming BuzzFeed, the “left-wing blog” responsible along with CNN for the elephant in the room at a standing-room-only Trump Tower on Wednesday: the bombshell story of unverified claims that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about the president-elect, which reportedly have been circulating Washington and the intelligence community.
Then Trump took center stage. He thanked certain outlets that didn’t go into detail about the claims, and launched into an almost Chamber of Commerce-like rattle of small-bore transition updates, including that he’d be the “greatest jobs producer that God ever created.”
What hath God wrought?
But it didn’t take long until things descended into full New York City anarchy. You could see it in his arm motions, which began to approach the campaign-trail frenzies we’ve become used to, his pointing and gesticulating, spreading his hands.
His words were no less zany. Predictably asked about relations with Russia, he began describing himself in the third person: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.”
He called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage”; refused to take a question from a CNN reporter, shouting over him “don’t be rude,” and calling that outlet “fake news” despite it not having published the intelligence dossier with salacious, unsubstantiated details that BuzzFeed posted online Tuesday.
Yet Trump himself nodded at those details when he decried them by saying he was a germaphobe, and when he outlined his bizarre and detailed advice to associates upon traveling in foreign hotels — beware “cameras that are so small.”
He said he would be able to run his business and the world’s largest superpower at the same time and well, but that he decided against it. Also, he said he was “offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai” just days ago. The developer is a “great guy,” Trump added.
He got in a nice plug for the Miss Universe contest, “which did very well.” Trump was critical of his old antagonist Sen. Lindsey Graham, though he refrained from again announcing Graham’s cellphone number on live TV.
The news conference was carried around the world, and its tone and theater more closely mimicked a raucous NYC showdown between a boisterous mayor taunting and toying with a no-holds-barred tabloid media.
That was never the tone of things in the White House briefing room but Wednesday’s news conference only confirms that Trump will continue to be Trump, Oval Office occupant or not. Expect more questions like the one from a reporter who wanted to “ask about something you said on Twitter this morning.”
That was about a Trump tweet questioning whether we’re living in Nazi Germany.
He elaborated on that theme Wednesday. Oh, and he made a big show about the other big issue that many hoped this news conference would address — the putative subject of Trump’s canceled news conference last month — how he would be dealing with his copious business and potential conflicts of interest as president. He pointed to scores of folders of signed papers and took a timeout in favor of a sober but political speech by a lawyer who indicated Trump would be divesting from his company. He is not — he will be turning it over to his sons, which many ethics experts deem to be unsatisfactory.
After more than an hour, he left the stage. That’s all till next time, folks.