Thursday 14 December 2017

'I inherited a disaster,' rages Donald Trump

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference yesterday in the East Room of the White House. Photo: Reuters
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference yesterday in the East Room of the White House. Photo: Reuters
US Vice President Mike Pence (C) laughs along with Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) during a news conference by President Donald Trump at the White House. Photo: Reuters

David Lawler in Washington

DONALD TRUMP insisted that he had "inherited a mess" as he launched the most vigorous defence of his presidency to date during a wide-ranging 75-minute impromptu press conference yesterday.

Mr Trump claimed his administration was operating like a "fine-tuned machine" and railed against claims to the contrary during a session initially intended as an introduction of his new cabinet nominee.

He insisted that his team was running "like a fine-tuned machine" and lampooned the mainstream media that he said was peddling "fake news".

“I open the paper and I see stories of chaos, chaos,” he said. “It’s the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite not being able to get my cabinet approved.” 

The president briefly noted that Alexander Acosta would be the next secretary of labour before launching into an impassioned defence of himself and his policies.

"I inherited a mess, at home and abroad, a mess," he said. "No matter where you look, a disaster... we'll take care of it. I just wanted to let you know I inherited a mess."

US Vice President Mike Pence (C) laughs along with Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) during a news conference by President Donald Trump at the White House. Photo: Reuters
US Vice President Mike Pence (C) laughs along with Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) during a news conference by President Donald Trump at the White House. Photo: Reuters

Mr Trump said his rivals and the media continued to claim his administration was in "chaos", but the reality was "the exact opposite", and that no previous president had accomplished so much and so quickly.

He jolted from anger, to humour to defiance, claiming that while he knew the headlines would say he had "ranted and raved", he was enjoying himself.

The press conference marked a return to Mr Trump's improvisational style during the campaign following weeks in which his public statements had come largely on Twitter or in exchanges with friendly media outlets.

A White House official told CNN the president had simply strolled into the Oval Office and said: "Let's do a press conference today."

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Mr Trump claimed reports that his senior campaign aides had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials were a "ruse" designed to undermine his presidency. But he twice declined to say whether they were accurate, until finally clarifying that "nobody that I know of" had held conversations with Russian agents.

He insisted that he personally had "nothing to do" with Russia, and that the leaks from US intelligence sources that led to the reports were the real scandal.

"The good thing is it's starting to turn. People are starting to focus on the illegal giving out of classified information," he said.

Deal

He also appeared to forgive Vladimir Putin for stepping up his aggression toward the US, saying he believed negative media coverage had convinced Mr Putin that a potential "deal" was off.

Mr Trump said he would ultimately be more "tough" on Russia than Hillary Clinton was as secretary of state.

"We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20pc of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons, like lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things," he said.

Mr Trump said he was not concerned that Michael Flynn, until recently his national security adviser, had discussed sanctions to be handed down by Barack Obama with the Russian ambassador last year despite a law against negotiating with foreign powers.

"Mike was doing his job," Mr Trump said, adding that he "would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it".

The president said the reason he demanded Mr Flynn's resignation was that the retired general had not recounted the conversations accurately to Mike Pence, the vice-president.

He described Mr Flynn as a "fine person", and said the "real problem" was that details of his conversations with Russia had made it into media reports.

Asked about reports that Stephen Feinberg, the billionaire investor, would be conducting a review of US intelligence amid the high-profile leaks, Mr Trump said he hoped that would not be necessary.

Mr Trump repeated his claim that his had been "the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan".

In fact, Mr Obama's wins in 2008 and 2012 had both been by significantly larger margins than Mr Trump's. Bill Clinton's margins of victory in 1992 and 1996 were far larger, too, and in 1988 George HW Bush won 426 electoral college votes, compared with 306 for Mr Trump.

When confronted with those facts Mr Trump simply said he had been "given that information" and suggested that he could not be held responsible for inaccuracies. "I was given that information. I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?"

Telegraph.co.uk

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