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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Surreal freak show at the podium

by digby

This doesn't begin to give you the full effect of the dada-esque press conference today. You'd have to watch the whole bizarre thing to really understand how unhinged it was. CNN’s John King said he received a message from a Republican senator who wrote, “He should do this with a therapist, not on live television.”

Here are some highlights:

Minutes after President Donald Trump’s press conference concluded on Thursday afternoon, CNN’s Jake Tapper called it “unhinged” and “wild.”

Here are nine quotes from the presser that back up that assessment.

1) At the beginning of the press conference, Trump blasted intelligence community leaks about his campaign’s alleged contact with Russia as “fake news.” A reporter asked Trump to clarify whether he meant that the leaks were fake.

Here’s the exchange:

QUESTION: I just want to get you to clarify this very important point. Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign? And on the leaks, is it fake news or are these real leaks?

TRUMP: Well, the leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them; I mean, the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it, and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

So one thing that I felt it was very important to do — and I hope we can correct it. Because there’s nobody I have more respect for — well, maybe a little bit but the reporters, good reporters.

2) After reporter April Ryan asked Trump about the Congressional Black Caucus, the president asked if she could set up a meeting with them. Ryan, who is black, is the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks in Baltimore.

RYAN: When you say the inner cities, are you going — are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President? In your conversations with your -- your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as --

TRUMP: Am I going to include who?

RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional --

TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: No, no, no. I’m not —-

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

RYAN: I'm just a reporter.

TRUMP: Well, then set up the meeting.

RYAN: I know some of them, but I'm sure they're watching right now.

TRUMP: 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. I think it's great.

3) Trump also used the question about fake news as an opportunity to criticize the ratings of CNN, saying he no longer watches the network because of its “anger and hatred.” At one point, CNN’s Jim Acosta began trying to ask a question before Trump told his employer to be “straight.”

Trump: I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred, and just the hatred. I don’t watch it anymore because it’s not very good. ... I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting. I know how good everybody’s ratings are right now, but I think that actually — I think that’d actually be better.

I don’t watch it any more because it’s very good — he’s saying no. It’s OK, Jim. It’s OK, Jim, you’ll have your chance. But I watch others too. You’re not the only one so don’t feel badly. But I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting

4) At another point in the press conference, Trump explained why he wouldn’t explain whether he will retaliate against reports of Russian provocation.

Trump: I'm not going to tell you anything about what I’m going to do. I'm not going to talk about military stuff. I will not say, “We are going to attack Mosul in four months. We are going to attack in one month. Next week, we are going to attack Mosul.”

In the meantime, Mosul is very, very difficult — you know why? I don't talk about military and certain other things. You were going to be surprised to hear that, by the way, my whole campaign I said that. I don't have to tell you.

5) Trump was also asked whether by attacking “fake news” he’d be undermining the press. It’s hard to summarize Trump’s answer, which touched on the negativity of the press, the importance of the institution, and whether he’d be a good reporter.

Reporter: When you call it "fake news," you're undermining confidence in our news media ...

Trump: No, no. I do that. Here's the thing. OK. I understand what you're -- and you're right about that, except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. And sometimes I'll say, "Wow, that's going to be a great story." And I'll get killed ...

But I know what's good. I know what's bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive -- sometimes something that should be very positive, they'll make OK. They'll even make it negative.

So I understand it. So, because I'm there. I know what was said. I know who's saying it. I'm there. So it's very important to me.

Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it's so important to the public to get an honest press. The press -- the public doesn't believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don't know. But they don't believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right?

6) At another point, Trump talked about the press would misrepresent the press conference he was giving. He said that he was not “ranting and raving,” but that the media coverage would say he had. (The precise wording of the question in the exchange below is unclear.)

Trump: I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people listening to you people. That's for sure. But I'm having a good time.

Tomorrow, they will say, "Donald Trump rants and raves at the press." I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people. But -- but I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it.

But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, "Donald Trump rants and raves." I'm not ranting and raving.

7) Trump was also asked if “there was anything” he could reveal to convince the med and public that the leaks over Russia and Flynn amounted to “fake news.” Trump began by citing a Rasmussen poll showing his approval rating north of 50 percent, before talking about the dangers of uranium and how Hillary Clinton had a “stupid plastic button” as part of her Russian reset.

Trump: By the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia. Just so you understand that. Tomorrow, you will say "Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia; this is terrible." It is not terrible.

It is good. We had Hillary Clinton try to do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20% of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things.

But nobody talks about that. I did not do anything for Russia. I've done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20% of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks?

8) Later, Trump was asked if Vladimir Putin was “testing” him with military provocations. Trump’s response included a warning about how nuclear war “would be like no other:”

Trump: 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. They're a very powerful nuclear country, and so are we.

If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along -- and don't forget, we're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There's no upside. We're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. 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.

They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.

9) In one of his most relaxed moments, Trump ruminated on a career he decided not to pursue: “I'd be a pretty good reporter,” he said. “Not as good as you.”
You can read the transcript here or watch the whole thing if you feel like watching a horror movie tonight. Have a few shots poured before you do it.