In a heated exchange a day after the midterms President Donald Trump went from pensive to hostile, praising his role in Senate victories, chiding candidates who shunned him and musing about bipartisanship.
Addressing reporters at the White House on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump called the midterm elections "incredible" and "historic" in the face of competition from "Democratic donors and special interests" and "very hostile media coverage."
Trump lauded his own ability to help elect Republican Senate candidates, claiming he had "stopped the blue wave." He brushed off the loss of the House of Representatives to Democrats, claiming this was in large part due to retirements. He did not acknowledge that those retirements were brought about by dissatisfaction from fellow Republicans with his leadership style. He was also quick to point out that his losses were less severe than during former President Barack Obama's first midterms.
Trump went on to call out several losing Republican candidates by name, deriding them for having distanced themselves from him, saying "too bad," they "didn't want the embrace."
'Could be a beautiful bipartisan situation'
In an attempt to put a positive spin on the House loss, Trump said he saw it as a preferable outcome to Republican control of the chamber. He said it was a chance to find bipartisan compromise and that it would now be easier to get things done.
Trump claimed Democrat Senate losses were "a rebuke" of how they handled Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination process. He also said he was confident Democrats would see that the country has "investigative fatigue" and would not pursue further investigations of his administration.
At the next turn, however, he threatened to employ the Senate to turn up the heat on House Democrats should they act otherwise, later adding that if they did, it would bring the government to a halt and "I'll blame them."
Trump ended his remarks by speaking on issues such as the environment , bragging that the US had "just about the cleanest air, the cleanest water we've ever had," and saying he was optimistic that the new political reality "could be a beautiful bipartisan situation." "Now is the time for both parties to join together and put partisanship aside," he said.
Trump attacks journalists
After his prepared remarks, Trump opened the floor to questions and his previously measured and rather moderate tone shifted. Over the next 70 minutes, he fielded, dodged and ignored a number of questions. At one point the president verbally assaulted a number of reporters, whom he called "rude and terrible," even stepping away from the lectern several times after ordering them to "put down the mic."
He angrily attacked a White House correspondent of Haitian descent, telling her that her question about whether white nationalists might be emboldened by him labeling himself a nationalist was "a racist question" and "insulting."
Trump also called CNN's White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, an "enemy of the people" after the reporter refused Trump's demands to sit down. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced hours later that Acosta's press pass had been suspended until further notice.
Things were no better for foreign correspondents, with the president consistently complaining he couldn't understand them. He had especially harsh treatment for a Japanese reporter; Trump, after asking the reporter where he was from, said "Say hello to Shinzo … I'm sure he's happy about his tariffs on his cars."
'A great moral leader'
Trump was asked a number of specific questions, many of which he ignored, preferring to talk about unrelated topics. When asked what he planned to do about division, anti-Semitic attacks and hate crimes, he spoke about his decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. When asked to answer the question a second time, he talked about the economy and China. Asked a third time, Trump replied: "I think I am a great moral leader and I love this country."
Other topics addressed during the press conference included Russia, North Korea, immigration, oil prices — which the president claimed he has brought down single-handedly — internet regulation of speech and the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In passing, he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be his running mate in his 2020 re-election campaign.
Trump ended the press conference by announcing he has made the country safe thanks to his stance on immigration and that security, both financial and physical, was something that suburban woman — who fled the party in droves Tuesday — wanted.
When asked a final question as to whether he bore any responsibility for the divisive tone of political discourse, the president was predictable: "Hopefully the tone can get a lot better, but I really believe it begins with the media."
amp, js/cmk (AP, Reuters, AFP)