President Trump’s News Conference: Live Analysis

White House Correspondent

Trump is used to dealing with gossip pages.

Good afternoon everyone, I’m Glenn Thrush, a White House correspondent for The Times and I’m joined today by my colleague Maggie Haberman.

We’re expecting President Trump to announce his new nominee for secretary of labor, a day after his first nominee, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration. His nomination had been facing increasing headwinds after several Republican senators expressed doubts amid attacks on his business record and personal life.

We’re not yet sure whether Trump will take questions, but the news conference comes amid a tumultuous week for the administration, one which has already seen the resignation of the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and new revelations about contacts that Trump’s associates had during the campaign with Russian intelligence officials.

I sense, if his comments during a photo op earlier this morning were any guide, that we are going to get quite the opening statement on leakers, the dishonest media and the unfair treatment of Puzder.

One important thing to note: Of the four reporters selected to ask questions at two news conferences with foreign leaders this week, all were from conservative media outlets — Town Hall, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Daily Caller and a local TV reporter from Sinclair.
White House Correspondent

Hi Glenn, a pleasure to be here with you.

I think that Trump is in need of a change of storyline, and as you know well, he understands how to do that.

He’s done very, very few press conferences to announce nominees for any position. I think the one for Neil Gorsuch was it.

Trump is highly focused on stemming leaks about his administration. But this is a sprawling bureaucracy, not Trump Tower, and I think it’s going to be hard for him, despite his difficulty moving past it.
White House Correspondent

Trump says that his nominee to lead the Department of Labor is Alex Acosta.
White House Correspondent

Acosta will be “tremendous,” Trump says.

Trump and his superlatives.
White House Correspondent

Paul Singer, the billionaire anti-Trump donor, gets a shout-out from Trump for coming on board…
White House Correspondent

Singer is about as privacy-minded as Trump. Not sure he would have appreciated that!
White House Correspondent

For what? Not entirely clear… Maggie?
White House Correspondent

Glenn, I’m not sure. Some people close to Singer have been trying to help guide the administration, which has had a lot of problems.

Trump is reading off a Rasmussen poll!
For our readers, Rasmussen is not considered a reliable pollster by most people in the polling industry.
White House Correspondent

The president of the United States is standing in the East Room of the White House touting a Rasmussen poll.
White House Correspondent

Glenn, I’m going to go ahead and say that Trump is incredibly uncomfortable.

He’s beginning with a very Bannon-esque statement about the dishonesty of coastal elite media.

And this is the Trump campaign message.
White House Correspondent

His N.S.C. head resigned, U.N. ambassador just directly contradicted his Israel position, labor secretary nominee quits under fire – so time to…. attack the press!
White House Correspondent

But he’s going to take questions, he says!
White House Correspondent

“I inherited a mess!”
White House Correspondent

This is Trump’s masterstroke on rhetoric. He uses repetition, and this time it was about the “mess” he says he walked into. He repeated the word over and over.
Glenn, this is a campaign speech.

A warm-up for Saturday.
White House Correspondent

This is a reset, on some level.
White House Correspondent

Yes, it is.

The only way he knows how.
White House Correspondent

“The biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan” – Nope.

50 Years of Electoral College Maps: How the U.S. Turned Red and Blue

Massachusetts, home of the Kennedys, was the outlier state, cultivating its liberal reputation. In the next few decades, two Massachusetts politicians emerged as Democratic presidential nominees (Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004); two emerged as main contenders for the nomination (Ted Kennedy in 1980 and Paul Tsongas in 1992); and one emerged as the Republican nominee (Mitt Romney in 2012), with some Republicans believing he was too liberal or moderate.

The New York Times
Trump’s Electoral College Victory Ranks 46th in 58 Elections

46th out of 58 elections 47th in the last 49 elections Mr. Trump won 30 states, gathering 306 of 538 electoral votes. There have been 45 presidential elections in which the winning candidate won a larger share of the electoral vote.

The New York Times

He says the White House is running like “a fine-tuned machine”

White House Correspondent

Few occupants of his West Wing would say that, other than him.

‘Unbelievable Turmoil’: Trump’s First Month Leaves Washington Reeling
The resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser amid the tumultuous early days of Mr. Trump’s presidency has deeply rattled the Washington establishment.

The New York Times

White House Correspondent

According to Fox News, Sean Spicer is going to do the closing act after Trump speaks.
White House Correspondent

The West Wing is not running like a fine-tuned machine, according to absolutely everybody not named Trump, Spicer, Bannon or Priebus.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent
It’s interesting that Trump mentions the cheap cost of illegal drugs, an issue he has barely focused on since he was inaugurated.

White House Correspondent

To paraphrase a reporter speaking about Ed Koch – Trump is unavoidable for comment.
White House Correspondent

Trump makes news — says he’s going to issue a new executive order on travel.
While simultaneously pursuing the court measure.

Glenn, the subtext of this speech is Trump’s awareness that he is mired in negative headlines, which bother him greatly, according to a number of people who have spoken with him.

I’d also posit that this is Trump unbound. He’s been wanting to make a version of these public remarks for some time.

Trump again says there’s “never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time.”

What is also interesting here is that Trump realizes he needs to answer questions today.

Trump, asked about Flynn, tries to keep the focus on leaks.
He then calls the focus on Russia and any links to Russia “fake news” that was supposed to make up for “the loss” that Hillary Clinton suffered in the fall.
White House Correspondent

Glenn Thrush
1:22 PM ET
This is vintage Trump.
He seems a little tired, a little hoarse, a little annoyed.

White House Correspondent

For those who aren’t watching, Trump’s tone is very subdued.

I don’t think the focus on leaks is strictly misdirection.
Trump says that Flynn “didn’t just call Russia…I think there were 30-some-odd countries.”
“He was just doing his job.”
White House Correspondent

Trump just said he knew about Flynn’s call to Russians.
White House Correspondent

He is now defending Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.
White House Correspondent

Glenn Thrush
1:26 PM ET
Again, Trump keeps saying nice things about Putin.
“Russia is fake news.”

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:26 PM ET
One thing, Glenn, that is really important to remember about Trump — he is his own best defender, and he knows it. I had been hearing, as had you, about how frustrated he has been about the hits he is taking. He doesn’t fully get that part of it comes with the job of being president. But he has been wanting for days to defend himself.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:28 PM ET
“I sort of enjoy this back and forth.”

Trump says we never call him?

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:28 PM ET
It’s interesting that Trump says that the media never calls him. I email his press office almost daily, and Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee refuse to respond to my emails.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:29 PM ET
The last 14 emails I have sent to his press secretary have gone unanswered.

“I was given that information.” — He says about misstating his electoral victory.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:30 PM ET
Trump, asked why people should trust his declaration of his historic electoral margin when it wasn’t, says that was “information” he was “given.”

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:30 PM ET
He never takes responsibility for misstatements – it’s always staff or media.
Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:32 PM ET
Peter Alexander of NBC made the crucial point — why should the public trust the president’s claims of “fake news” when he has just offered a series of falsehoods?

Listening to Trump question why it is that the press is printing leaked information, it is a real reminder that he is used to dealing with gossip pages and business pages.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:34 PM ET
“There’s nobody I have more respect for – well maybe a little bit – than reporters.”

“I don’t watch CNN anymore.” His staff says he does.
Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:35 PM ET
Trump is correct that the media’s approval rating is lower than that of Congress.

Glenn, to Trump’s claim that he is fine with stories he considers negative so long as they’re accurate, we’ve experienced firsthand how he reacts to assiduously fact-checked stories that he dislikes.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:36 PM ET
Trump also talked about the White House’s “incredible” phone equipment, something he said to me in an interview a few weeks ago.

Photo

A Homebody Finds the Ultimate Home Office

Candidate Trump preferred to sleep in his own bed. But President Trump has spent the past five nights in his new home. His review? “Pure elegance.”
The New York Times

Trump is asked if he directed Flynn to call Russia and discuss sanctions. He says he did not.

But then Trump says he would have directed him to make such a call, if I heard correctly.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:39 PM ET
It certainly would have been O.K. for Flynn to discuss sanctions with Russia and he would have directed him if he didn’t do it, Trump says.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:39 PM ET
Glenn, it is clear to me from this press conference that Trump knows his team’s approach to the press has been a bad idea.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:39 PM ET
That’s absolutely true, Maggie – it’s like he’s just been waiting for this opportunity for weeks.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:41 PM ET
Trump is giving a version of the Chris Christie press conference on Bridgegate from January 2014.

Stand there and take the negative questions.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:41 PM ET
Yes, Maggie!

The temptation to personalize a discussion with Trump – which is the standard banter for TV correspondents – doesn’t work with Trump. It gives him an out… he can get into a back-and-forth as opposed to answering questions.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:41 PM ET
That’s exactly right.

Trump is so incredibly good at playing these events. I know how it is playing in the briefing room, but I am not sure that the people watching this at home are seeing it this way.

Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t watch CNN. In this presser, he is referring to Don Lemon’s show’s time slot.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:43 PM ET
“I’m not ranting and raving, I’m having a good time.”

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:44 PM ET
One of Trump’s talents, Glenn, is getting reporters to mirror his own inward focus.
Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:46 PM ET
Instead of asking the president targeted, sequential questions about the sequence of events on Russia and Flynn, reporters are being sucked into an argument about the press – which is what Trump wants.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:46 PM ET
Trump endorses the job his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is doing.

I do wish someone in the room would ask the president if he thinks people care more about his media treatment than their own lives.
The president just casually asked the White House press corps if they know what uranium is.
Trump just said the easiest thing for him to do would be to blow the idling Russian ship off Connecticut “out of the water.”
Glenn, I just saw your point about reporters getting sucked into a debate about the media. That’s exactly right. He has an ability to get people to argue on his terms. And, as much as I hate to say it, the media is not always great at remembering that it’s not the real story, to paraphrase Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News.”

But this is not a campaign. And there is something undignified about this press conference.
Trump has made clear how little information he believes he needs to make public. This is sort of a refreshing take on an office in which people repeatedly pretend that they’re interested in transparency and don’t make good on it. But it is not, in and of itself, transparent.
Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:57 PM ET
Trump has turned this from a press conference about Russia – into a performance where the focus is on him.
Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:57 PM ET
Compare the references to Alex Acosta to Hillary Clinton.

One has vastly outweighed the other.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

1:57 PM ET
He says the “rollout was perfect,” regarding the executive order on immigration.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

1:57 PM ET
Trump may have legitimate merits to argue about the tone of coverage against him, but by making them himself, he won’t be heard.

Trump has privately complained about the rollout of the order.

Trump has not given a “yes or no” answer to Julie Pace’s question about whether he could say that no one from his campaign was dealing with Russia during the election.

To be clear, the question that Trump is angry about from a Jewish reporter about rising incidents of anti-Semitism in America.

Trump insisted it was not a “fair” question, said the reporter “lied” and said it would be straightforward, and then claimed that the question was about whether the president is anti-Semitic (it was not the question).

The question was about the rise of anti-Semitism under his presidency.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:04 PM ET
Now, asked about DACA, the Obama era program that protects undocumented aliens who were brought to the United States as young children, Trump says “DACA is a very very difficult subject for me” – “You have some absolutely incredible kids” – “We are going to deal with DACA with heart.”

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

2:04 PM ET
This is a question that has both bedeviled and enraged Trump throughout the campaign.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:08 PM ET
Maggie, this really is just like one of those Putin end-of-year press conferences.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

2:09 PM ET
Trump repeatedly described himself as knowing his wife “a long time.”

And Glenn, yes, it really is.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:09 PM ET
So many headlines – there’s only one: TRUMP!

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

2:09 PM ET
It’s an “ask-me-anything” style event.

And as you say, hard to pick the headline from.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:10 PM ET
There’s a genius to this.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

2:10 PM ET
Perhaps not the last line, where he asked a black reporter if the Congressional Black Caucus members are “friends of yours.”

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:12 PM ET
The open format makes the press corps seem like reporters on TV – jumping up and down begging to be called on while he chooses who gets the honor of speaking.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

2:12 PM ET
Trump says, “I didn’t come along and divide this country.”

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:12 PM ET
That’s not what the polls say.

Maggie Haberman

White House Correspondent

2:12 PM ET
He isn’t wrong, but the criticism is that he hasn’t worked to bridge the divide.

Glenn Thrush

White House Correspondent

2:16 PM ET
Here’s our colleague Peter Baker on Acosta’s nomination and some more about this news conference:

Photo

R. Alexander Acosta, Law School Dean, Is Trump’s New Pick for Labor

The president selected Mr. Acosta, a former assistant attorney general for civil rights who now heads the law school at Florida International University in Miami.

The New York Times


Impeach Trump

Email
Donald Trump has refused to put his businesses in a blind trust – violating the Constitution. Do you think this is an impeachable offense?
Yes!
No.
Unsure
The CIA and FBI have established that Russia interfered in the 2O16 Election. Should Donald Trump’s connections to Russia be investigated?
Yes!
No.
Unsure
Reports indicate Donald Trump may have avoided paying income tax for nearly two decades and he may have illegal business ties to Russia. Should Trump release his tax returns?

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