US President Donald Trump has lashed out once against the media at a press conference. He dismissed a number of major media outlets as "dishonest" peddlers of "fake news."
Less than one month into his presidency, US President Donald Trump appeared to revert back into campaign mode and scolded the US media during his first solo press conference as president on Thursday.
Trump denounced reports of "chaos" during his first month as commander-in-chief and accused the press of playing to special interests and "doing a tremendous disservice to the American people."
Trump went on to mount a staunch defense of his presidency, after saying he "inherited a mess," he described his administration as "running like a fine-tuned machine."
Evidence of such has been wanting. The White House has been criticized in the United States and worldwide for its handling of a number of issues, including an executive order banning all refugees as well as travelers into the US from seven majority-Muslim countries. That order was tied up in a legal fight, US appeals court upholds block on travel ban but the Trump administration said on Thursday it would not longer contest the ruling. Instead, officials have said Trump would introduce a new executive order next week.
Despite the ensuing airline and airport chaos, Trump defended the roll-out of the ban and said he would announce a "new and very comprehensive order to protect our people."
Trump dismisses ties to Russia as "fake news"
Trump's criticism of the media extended to reports that members of his election campaign team were in repeated contact with the Russian government, claims he dismissed as "fake news put out by the media" and a "ruse."
Trump said "nobody that I know of" on his campaign staff had contacted Russian officials. He also said such reports had "nothing to do with Russia."
Those claims have been increasingly scrutinized following revelations based on leaked information from US intelligence agents that White House national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence over conversations with Russia prior to Trump taking office. Flynn subsequently resigned from his post.
Trump defended Flynn, saying the retired general did nothing wrong in holding pre-inauguration talks with the Russian ambassador and that he demanded Flynn's resignation for misleading the vice president.
Rather than discuss the seriousness of the allegations, Trump instead further inflamed relations with the intelligence community, describing the leaks as criminal and warned that the people behind the leaks are "going to pay a big price."
He also stressed that he had no loans or business deals in Russia from his previous career as a real estate mogul. He has, however, refused to provide information about his taxes that could prove such a claim.
Alarm and dismay over attacks on the intelligence community
Trump's remarks represent a flipped stance on leaks from his campaign when he encouraged the damaging release of hacked campaign emails from his Democratic rival, Hilary Clinton. Last July, he told a news conference in Florida: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."
In January, US intelligence revealed that the leaks were part of a wider campaign sanctioned by Russian President Vladimir Putin to tilt the election in Trump's favor.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican hawk who has blasted Trump over claims of voter fraud and called for in-depth investigations over Trump's alleged links to Russia, described the President's overtures towards Russia as "a cloud over the White House."
Following Thursday's press conference, House Democrat Mark Takano tweeted: "That news conference was a 1 hour, 17 minute argument for why this Congress needs to start taking its oversight role much more seriously."
Acosta lined up for Labor secretary
Trump initially set up Thursday's press conference to announce his nominee for Labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, dean of the Florida International University law school and former US attorney in Florida. If confirmed by the Senate, Acosta would be the first Hispanic pick in Trump's cabinet.
Trump indicated that he has a successor for Flynn lined up. The favorite is believed to be ice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, according to White House officials. Harward is expected to meet with officials later on Thursday.
dm/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)