On Thursday, Donald Trump held his first solo press conference as president of the United States, in what was ostensibly an announcement of his replacement nominee for secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta. It turned out to be about so much more. Below is a selection of his verbatim responses to questions.
On National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation: “[W]hen I looked at the information I said I don’t think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right. I was coming into office. He ‘looked at the information. ‘He said, huh, that’s fine. That’s what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to—he didn’t just call Russia, he called and spoke to both ways—I think there were 30-some-odd countries. Doing the job. You know, he was just doing his job. The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly, and then he said he didn’t remember. So either way, it wasn’t very satisfactory to me.”
On bad press: “I will be honest. I sort of enjoy this back and forth, and I have all my life, but I have never seen more dishonest people than frankly the political media. I thought the business media were much more honest. I never get phone calls from the media. How do they write a story without asking me or how do they write a story in the New York Times, put it on the front page? That was like the story they wrote on the women and me, front page, massive story. And it was nasty. And then they called, they said, ‘I never said that. We like Mr. Trump.’ They called my office. ‘We like Mr. Trump. We never said that.’ It was totally—they totally misrepresented those very wonderful women.”
On his Electoral College margin of victory:
NBC’s Peter Alexander: Mr. President, very simply you said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ron Reagan. In fact, president Obama had 365,
President Trump: I was talking about Republicans—
Alexander: George Bush, 426 when he won. So why should Americans trust—
President Trump: I was given that information. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.
Alexander: I guess my question is why should the American people trust you when you accuse the information they receive as being fake when you’re providing information that’s not accurate?
President Trump: I was given that information. Actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?
Alexander: You’re the president.
President Trump: Yes.
On bad press again: “I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody. As long as it’s true.”
On leaks: “When WikiLeaks, which I have nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they are not giving classified information. They are giving stuff, what was said in an office about Hillary cheating on the debates, which by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates. Can you imagine, seriously, can you imagine if I received the questions? It would be the electric chair. OK? He should be put in the electric—you would even call for the institution of the death penalty. Maybe not you, John.”
On bad press again: “And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is—I do get good ratings, you have to admit that—the tone is such hatred. I watched this morning a couple of the networks—I have to say, Fox and Friends in the morning, they’re very honorable people.”
On a response to recent Russian actions, including their buzzing of an American destroyer and movement of a spy ship to the coast of Connecticut: “If I was just brutal on Russia right now, just brutal, people would say—you would say—‘Oh isn’t that wonderful?’ I know you well enough. Then you would say, ‘He was too tough. He shouldn’t have done that.’ ”
On relations with Russia in general: “I have been briefed. I and I can tell you, one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say, because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”
Again on a response to Russian actions: “I’m not going to tell you anything about what response I do. … Because I don’t talk about military and I don’t talk about certain other things. … So I don’t have to tell you. I don’t want to be one of these guys that say [imitative voice] ‘Yes, here’s what we’re going to do.’ I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea. And I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do with Iran. You know why? Because they shouldn’t know. And eventually you guys are going to get tired of asking that question. So, when you ask me, what am I going to do with the ship, the Russian ship, as an example? I’m not going to tell you. But hopefully I won’t have to do anything. But I’m not going to tell you.”
On how the government will respond to a surge in anti-Semitic hate incidents post-election: “Folks, number one, I am the least anti-semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism. The least racist person. We did relatively well in fact, relative to other people running as a Republican—quiet, quiet, quiet—see he lied about he was going to get up and ask a very straight simple question. So, you know. Welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something. I hate the charge. I find it repulsive, I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him Bibi, he said I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time, and then he said forget it, so you should take that instead of having to get up and asking a very insulting question like that.”
In response to a question from American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan, who is black, on potentially meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus: “Do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? No, set up the—let’s go. Set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the black caucus, I think it’s great—the Congressional Black Caucus.”