President Donald Trump launched a barrage of attacks on the press and leakers in an unsteady, unwieldy 77-minute press conference in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.
With his administration in crisis, Trump also defended the chaotic first month of his presidency, claiming that he had “inherited a mess” from President Barack Obama and that his administration “is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
“I’m making this presentation directly to the American people with the media present ... because many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect they deserve,” Trump said.
“Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system,” he said.
“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people, a tremendous disservice,” said Trump. “We have to talk about it. We have to find out what’s going on because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
Trump’s White House is reeling from scandals related to his campaign’s communications with Russian officials, which the president has dismissed as “nonsense” and part of a media conspiracy against him.
At the press conference, he stressed that leaking sensitive intelligence, in this case about the repeated contacts between his close associates and Russian intelligence officers, is a crime. The president said he has asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the leaks.
Responding to questions from reporters, Trump declared that “the leaks are real. The news is fake.”
“I don’t want classified information to get out to the public,” Trump said. “All this information gets put into The Washington Post and The New York Times.”
He went on to blame the press for recent Russian provocations in Europe and in the waters off the East Coast of the United States. “The false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia,” the president said.