Trump unloads on media in campaign style
In a free-wheeling press conference Thursday, US President Donald Trump tried to erase doubts about his early days in the White House by returning to what got him there: being Donald Trump.
Blunt and unscripted, the president lambasted the media as dishonest and unfair, blamed Democrats for the "mess" he inherited and bragged about the scope of his electoral victory.
He was, by turns, menacing and jarringly playful, calling reporters by their first names - only to accuse them of not just spreading "fake news", but a new, more sinister category of dishonesty, "very fake news". He talked over a question about anti-Semitism and asked an African-American reporter to set up a meeting with black lawmakers.
Almost incidentally, he made some news, including at least one potentially pivotal statement: a declaration that he was not aware that any of his campaign advisers were in contact with Russian government officials. "Nobody that I know of," he said.
The 77-minute news conference, easily his longest and most unrehearsed encounter with the media since last summer, appeared to satisfy his itch to duke it out with a press corps he feels has treated him unfairly since his inauguration. His supporters no doubt ate it up, but if they watched closely, they saw that Trump seemed to enjoy his banter with reporters, so much so that he could barely pry himself away from the cameras.
"I'm actually having a very good time, OK?" Trump said. "Don't forget, that's the way I won. Remember, I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech. Which was like every day."
But the event was more than a good time, suggesting Trump is taking a new approach to his job not even four weeks into it - a return to campaign mode. It'll continue on Saturday, when he appears at a public rally in Melbourne, Florida, the first such event since Christmas.
In the end, President Trump may be looking for salvation by Candidate Trump.
If so, it is a marked departure from the opening weeks of his presidency.
The plan had been to paper Washington with executive orders, personnel choices, and a series of meetings designed to show Trump taking charge of the country and moving quickly to enact change.
Instead, the administration mishandled implementation of an executive order barring immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, generating nationwide protests and a defeat in court.
Reports on contacts between Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and a Russian envoy forced Trump to fire Flynn on Monday.
Trump's first nominee to lead the Labor Department, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration on Wednesday after several Republican senators signaled they wouldn't support him.
Clearly upset by the coverage of his presidency so far, Trump opened his news conference with a 21-minute diatribe largely focused on his treatment by the press. He claimed his administration was "a fine-tuned machine" and that he inherited a divided nation rather than furthering the divisions.
While frequently denouncing "very fake news", Trump made obvious he is among the media's most avid consumers. He offered specific critiques of shows on CNN and Fox News, as well as recent front-page stories in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He argued that he was good for ratings and bantered with reporters, even joking with CNN's Jim Acosta - a White House correspondent for what is likely Trump's least-favorite outlet - that he would "check the family tree" to make sure his new labor secretary nominee, Alex Acosta, isn't related to the reporter.