Donald Trump Press Conference Feb. 16: Full transcript of the president's remarks
President Donald Trump's Thursday afternoon press conference to announce his pick for labor secretary, Alex Acosta, turned into a two-hour, one-man show. An angry man, at that.
In what essentially became a diatribe against the world, Trump used the time to attack the press, blame the Obama administration for leaving him a "mess," and offer "alternative facts," aka lies, about his election victory — among a number of other subjects.
Trump's responses to journalists' questions were rife with contradictions, paradoxes and enmity.
He explained, for example, the need to clamp down on government leaks and why, simultaneously, media's coverage of those leaks is not to be trusted.
"The leaks are real," Trump said. "The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake."
The president also took on the hotly contested topic of his election victory, which he refuses to accept was won with an historically low margin.
He said he won with the biggest Electoral College victory since Reagan — but, out of 58 presidential elections, he actually comes in at 46th.
The full transcript can be read below:
Trump: Thank you very much.
I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for secretary of the department of labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta. He has a law degree from Harvard Law School. Great student. Former clerk for Justice Samuel Alito. And he has had a tremendous career. He's a member and has been a member of the National Labor Relations Board and has been through Senate confirmation three times. Confirmed. Did very, very well. And so Alex, I wished him the best. We just spoke, and he's going to be, I think he'll be a tremendous secretary of labor.
And also, as you probably heard just a little while ago, Mick Mulvaney, former congressman, has just been approved, weeks late. I have to say that. Weeks, weeks late. Office of Management and Budget. And he will be, I think, a fantastic addition. Paul Singer just left. Paul was very much involved with the anti-Trump or as they say, "Never Trump," and Paul just left, and he's given us his total support. And it's all about unification. We're unifying the party, and hopefully we'll be able to unify the country. It's very important to me. I've been talking about that for a long time. It's very important to me. So I want to thank Paul Singer for being here and for coming up to the office. He was very strong opponent. And now he's a very strong ally. And I appreciate that.
I think I'll say a few words and then we'll take some questions. And I had this time. We've been negotiating a lot of transactions to save money on contracts that were terrible, including airplane contracts that were out of control and late and terrible. Just absolutely catastrophic in terms of what was happening. And we have done some really good work. We're very proud of that. And then right after that, you prepare yourself. We'll do some questions. Unless you have no questions. That's always a possibility. I'm here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration. We have made incredible progress. I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done.
A new Rasmussen poll, in fact, because the people get it. Much of the media doesn't get it. They actually get it, but they don't write it — let's put it that way. A new Rasmussen poll just came out a very short while ago, and it has our approval rating at 55%. And going up. The stock market has hit record numbers, as you know. And there has been a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world, which is, to me, means something much different than it used to. It used to mean, "Oh, that's good." Now it means that's good for jobs. Very different. Plants and factories are already starting to move back to the United States and big league, Ford, General Motors, so many of them. I'm making this presentation directly to the American people with the media present which is an honor to have you this morning, 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 that they deserve. And I hope going forward, we can be a little bit different and maybe get along a little better if that's possible. Maybe it's not, and that's OK, too.
Unfortunately much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York and Los Angeles speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what's going on because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.
I ran for president to represent the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking and really talking on this very entrenched power structure and what we're doing is we're talking about the power structure. We're talking about its entrenchment. As a result, the media is going through what they have to go through to oftentimes distort — not all the time, and some of the media is fantastic. They are honest and fantastic, but much of it is not. The distortion, and we'll talk about it. You'll be able to ask me questions about it. But we're not going to let it happen because I'm here again to take my message straight to the people.
As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad. A mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on with all of the companies leaving our country. Going to Mexico and other places. Low pay, low wages. Mass instability overseas no matter where you look. The Middle East a disaster. North Korea. We'll take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know. I inherited a mess. Beginning on day one, our administration went to work to tackle these challenges.
On foreign affairs, we've already begun enormously productive talks with many foreign leaders. Much of it you've covered. to move forward toward stability, security and peace in the most troubled regions of the world. Which there are many. We have had great conversations with the United Kingdom and meetings. Israel, Mexico, Japan, China and Canada. Really, really productive conversations. I would say far more productive than you would understand. We've even developed a new council with Canada to promote women's business leaders and entrepreneurs. Very important to me. Very important to my daughter Ivanka.
I have directed our defense community headed by our great general, now Secretary Mattis. He's over there now working very hard to submit a plan for the defeat of ISIS, a group that celebrates the murder and torture of innocent people in large sections of the world. Used to be a small group. Now it's in large sections of the world. They've spread like cancer. ISIS has spread like cancer. Another mess inherited. We've imposed new sanctions on Iran who totally took advantage of our previous administration. And they are the world's top sponsor of terrorism. And we're not going to stop until that problem is properly solved. And it's not properly solved now. It's one of the worst agreements I've ever seen drawn by anybody.
I've ordered plans to begin for the massive rebuilding of the United States military. Had great support from the Senate. I've had great support from Congress, generally. We've pursued this rebuilding in the hopes that we will never have to use this military. And I will tell you, that is my — I would be so happy if we never had to use it, but our country will never have had a military like the military we're about to build and rebuild. We have the greatest people on Earth in our military, but they don't have the right equipment, and their equipment is old. I used it. I talked about it. At every stop. Depleted. It's depleted. Won't be depleted for long.
One of the reasons I'm standing here instead of other people is that, frankly, I talked about we have to have a strong military. We have to have strong law enforcement also. So we are really searching for peace, but it's peace through strength. At home, we have begun the monumental task of returning the government back to the people on the scale not seen for many, many years. In each of these actions, I'm keeping my promises to the American people. These are campaign promises.
Some people are so surprised that we're having strong borders. That's what I've been talking about for a year and a half. Strong borders. They're so surprised. "Oh, he's having strong borders." Well, that's what I've been talking about to the press and everybody else. One promise after another, after years of politicians lying to you to get elected. They lied to the American people in order to get elected. Some of the things I'm doing probably aren't popular, but they're necessary for security and for other reasons.
And then coming to Washington and pursuing their own interests, which is more important to many politicians. I'm here following through on what I pledge to do. It's all I'm doing. I put it out before the American people. Got 306 Electoral College votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. They said there's no way to get 222. 230 is impossible. 270, which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before. That's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.
In other words, the media is trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made and they're not happy about it for whatever reason. And... but a lot of people are happy about it. In fact, I'll be in Melbourne, Florida, at 5 o'clock on Saturday. And I heard — just heard that the crowds are massive that want to be there. I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite.
This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine. Despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved, and they are outstanding people. Like Sen. Dan Coats who is there, one of the most respected men in the Senate. He can't get approved. How do you not approve him? He's been a colleague. Highly respected. Brilliant guy. Great guy. Everybody knows it. We're waiting for approval. So we have a wonderful group of people that's working very hard that's being very much misrepresented about, and we can't let that happen.
So if the Democrats who have — all you have to do is look at where they are right now. The only thing they can do is delay because they screwed things up royally. Believe me.
Let me list to you some of the things we've done in just a short period of time: Just got here. I got here with no Cabinet. Again, each of these actions is a promise I made to the American people. So we'll go over just some of them, and we have a lot happening next week and in the weeks coming. We've withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We've directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and called for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure. And that means plants, equipment, roads, bridges, factories. People take 10, 15, 20 years to get approved. They go in for a permit. It's many, many years and then they spend tens of millions of dollars on nonsense and at the end of the process, they get rejected. It's going to be a quick rejection. Not going to take years. But mostly it's going to be an acceptance. We want plants built and factories built and we want the jobs. We don't want the jobs going to other countries. We have imposed a hiring freeze on nonessential federal workers. We've imposed a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations. We've issued a game-changing new rule that says for each one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.
Makes sense. Nobody has ever seen regulations like we have. You go to other countries and you look at industries they have and you say, "Let me see your regulations." And they are a fraction — just a tiny fraction of what we have. And I want regulations because I want safety. I want environmental — all environmental situations to be taken properly care of. It’s very important to me. But you don't need four or five or six regulations to take care of the same thing.
We've stood up for the men and women of law enforcement directing federal agencies to ensure they are protected from crimes of violence. We've directed the creation of a task force for reducing violent crime in America, including the horrendous situation — take a look at Chicago and others. Taking place right now in our inner cities. Horrible. We've ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs. We're becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheap are than candy bars. We're not going to let it happen any longer. We've undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation to keep our nation and our tax dollars safe and are in the process of beginning to build a promised wall on the southern border.
Met with general — now Secretary — Kelly yesterday, and we're starting that process. And the wall is going to be a great wall. It's going to be a wall negotiated by me. The price is going to come down just like it has on everything else I’ve negotiated for the government. And we're going to have a wall that works. We're not going to have a wall like they have now, which is either nonexistence or a joke. We've ordered a crackdown on sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal law and that harbor criminal aliens, and we've ordered an end to the policy of catch and release on the border. No more release. No matter who you are. Release. We've begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety. We are saving American lives every single day. Court system has not made it easy for us. And are even creating a new office in Homeland Security dedicated to the forgotten American victims of illegal immigrant violence, which there are many. We've taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country. Though parts of our necessary and constitutional actions were blocked by judges', in my opinion, incorrect and unsafe ruling, our administration is working night and day to keep you safe. Including reporters safe. And is vigorously defending this lawful order.
I will not back down from defending our country. I got elected on defense of our country. And I keep my campaign promises. And our citizens will be very happy when they see the result, they already are. I can tell you that. Extreme vetting will be put in place and it already is in place in many places. We had to go quicker than we thought because of the bad decision we received from a circuit that has been overturned at a record number. I’ve heard 80%. I find that hard to believe. That's just a number I heard that they overturned 80% of the time. I think that circuit is — that circuit is in chaos. And that circuit is, frankly, in turmoil. But we are appealing that, and we are going further. We're issuing a new executive action next week that will comprehensively protect our country. So we'll be going along the one path and hopefully winning that.
At the same time, we will be issuing a new and very comprehensive order to protect our people. And that will be done some time next week, toward the beginning or middle at the latest part. We've also taken steps to begin construction of the Keystone pipeline and Dakota Access pipelines. Thousands and thousands of jobs. And put new "buy American" measures in place to require American steel for American pipelines. They build a pipeline in this country, and we use the powers of government to make that pipeline happen, we want them to use American steel. And they are willing to do that, but nobody ever asked before I came along. Even this order was drawn and they didn't say that. And I'm reading the order. Why aren't we using American steel? And they said, that's a good idea. We put it in.
To drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C., I have started by imposing a five-year lobbying ban on White House officials. and a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government.
We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It's a disaster. You can say, oh, Obamacare. They fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they're not the Republican people that our representatives are representing. So we've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare and are deep in the midst of negotiations on a very historic tax reform to bring our jobs back. Bring our jobs back to this country, big league. It's already happening. Big league.
I've also worked to install a Cabinet after the delays in obstruction of Senate Democrats. You've seen what they've done over the last long number of years. That will be one of the great Cabinets ever assembled in American history. You look at Rex Tillerson. He's out there negotiating right now. General Mattis, I mentioned before. General Kelly. We have great, great people. Mick, who is with us now. Among their responsibilities will be ending the bleeding of jobs from our country and negotiating fair trade deals for our citizens.
Now look. Fair trade. Not free — fair. If a country is taking advantage of us, we're not going to let that happen anymore. Every country takes advantage of us, almost. I may be able to find a couple that don't. But for the most part, that would be a very tough job for me to do. Jobs have already started to surge. since my election. Ford announced it will abandon its plans to build a new factory in Mexico and will invest $700 million in Michigan creating many, many jobs. Fiat Chrysler announced it will invest $1 billion in Ohio and Michigan, creating 2,000 new American jobs. They were with me a week ago. General Motors likewise committed to invest billions of dollars in its American manufacturing operation. Keeping many jobs here that were going to leave. If I [didn’t get elected], they would have left and these jobs I’m announcing would never have come here. Intel just announced it will move ahead with a new plant in Arizona that was probably never going to move ahead with, and that will result in at least 10,000 American jobs. Walmart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives. There will be many, many more. Many more. These are a few that we're naming. Other countries have been taking advantage of us for decades. Decades and decades and decades, folks. And we're not going to let that happen anymore. Not going to let it happen.
One more thing, I have kept my promise to the American people by nominating a justice of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is from my list of 20, and who will be a true defender of our laws and our Constitution. Highly respected. Should get the votes from the Democrats. You may not see that, but he'll get there one way or the other. But he should get there the old-fashioned way. And he should get those votes. This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country. Again, I say it, there has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time. And we haven't even started the big work that starts early next week. Very big things are going to be announced next week. So we're just getting started. We'll be giving a speech, as I said, in Melbourne, Florida, at 5:00 p.m. I hope to see you there. And with that, I just say, god bless America. And let's take some questions.
Mara, go ahead. You were cut off pretty violently at our last news conference.
[Reporter asks why Mike Flynn was fired.]
Trump: They never made a phone call to Russia. They never received a phone call. It's all fake news. It's all fake news. The nice thing is, I see it starting to turn. Where people [are] now looking at the illegal. I think it's very important. The illegal giving out [of] classified information. It was — and let me just tell you it was given out like so much. I’ll give you an example. I called, as you know, Mexico. It was a very confidential, classified call. But Ii called Mexico. And in calling Mexico, I figured, well — I spoke to the president of Mexico. Had a good call. All of a sudden, it's out there for the world to see. It's supposed to be secret. It's supposed to be either confidential or classified in that case. Same thing with Australia. All of a sudden, people are finding out exactly what took place. The same thing happened with respect to General Flynn. Everybody saw this. And I'm saying, the first thing I thought of when I heard about this, how does the press get this information that's classified? How do they do it? You know why? But it's an illegal process and the press should be ashamed of themselves. The people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves. Really ashamed.
Yes, go ahead. [inaudible question]
Because when I looked at the information, I said, I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right. He was coming into office. He looked at the information. He said, huh, that's fine. That's what they're supposed to do. They're supposed to be — he didn't just call Russia. He called and spoke to both ways, I think there were 30-some odd countries. He's doing the job. 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. And I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position. And that also helps, I think, in the making of my decision. But he didn't tell the vice president of the United States the facts. And then he didn't remember. And that just wasn't acceptable to me.
Reporter: Since you brought up Russia, I'm looking for clarification here. During your campaign, did anyone from your team communicate with members of the Russian government or Russian intelligence? And if so, what was the nature of those conversations?
Trump: The New York Times wrote a big long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It was — it's a joke. The people mention the story. I notice they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia. They weren't even a part, really. They were — they were such a minor part. I hadn't spoken to them. I think the one person, I don't think I’ve ever spoken to him or met him. And he said he was a very low-level member of, I think, a committee for a short period of time. I don't think I ever met him. It’s possible I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don't think I ever met him. I didn't talk to him ever and he thought it was a joke. The other person said he never spoke to Russia. Never received a call. Looked at his phone records. And the other person, people knew that he represented various countries but I don't think he represented Russia but knew he represented various countries. That's what he does. And people know that. That's Mr. Manafort who is, by the way, a respected man. He's a respected man. But I think he represented Ukraine or Ukraine government. But people knew that. Everybody knew that. So these people — and he said that he has absolutely nothing to do and never has with Russia. And he said that very forcefully. I saw his statement. Most of the papers don't print it because that's not good for their stories. So the three people that they talked about all totally deny it and I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders. Almost all other leaders from almost all other countries.
So Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people probably from the Obama administration because they are there, because we have our new people going in place right now. As you know, Mike Pompeo is now taking control of the CIA. James Comey at FBI. Dan Coats is waiting to be approved. He is a senator and highly respected one. And he's still waiting to be approved. But our new people are going in. And just, while you're at it, because you mentioned this, the Wall Street Journal did a story today that was almost as disgraceful as the failing New York Times' story yesterday and it talked about — you saw front page. So director of national intelligence just put out acting, a statement. Any suggestion that the United States intelligence community — this was just given to us, is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true. So they took this front-page story out of the Wall Street Journal and they just wrote the story. But it's not true. And I’ll tell you something. I’ll be honest because I sort of enjoy this back and forth. But I haven't seen more dishonest media than the political media. I thought the financial media was much better. But I never get phone calls from the media. How do they write a story like that without asking me? Or how do they write a story in the New York Times, put it the front page? That was like the story they [did] about the women and me. Front page. Big massive story. And it was nasty. And then they called and said, "We never said that. We like Mr. Trump." They called up my office. "We like Mr. Trump. We never said that." And it was totally — they totally misrepresented those very wonderful women. I have to tell you. Totally misrepresented. I said, "Give us a retraction." They never gave us a retraction and, frankly, I then went on to other things.
Okay. Go ahead.
Reporter: Mr. President —
Trump: You okay?
Reporter: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan with 304 or 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 and —
Trump: Well, I’m talking about Republicans.
Reporter: — the President Obama, 332, and George H.W. Bush, 426 when he won as president. So why should Americans trust —
Trump: No, I was given that information. I was just — we had a very, I have a big margin.
Reporter: Why should Americans trust you when you accuse the information they receive of being fake, when you're providing information that's —
Trump: I was given that information. I was given — actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?
Reporter: You're the president.
Trump: Thank you. Good answer, yes.
Reporter: Can you tell us in determining that General Flynn, there was no wrongdoing in your mind. What evidence — did you ask for transcripts of these telephone intercepts, specifically with Kislyak, who he was communicating with? How did you determine there was no wrongdoing? And you said you're going to aggressively pursue these leaks.
Trump: We are.
Reporter: Also a review of the intelligence community headed by Steven Feinberg.
Trump: First of all, about that, we now have Dan Coats, hopefully soon, Mike Pompeo and James Comey in position. So I hope that we'll be able to straighten that out without using anybody else. The gentleman you mentioned is a very talented man, very successful man. He's offered his services. And it's something we may take advantage of. But I don't think we'll need that at all because of the fact that, you know, I think that we're going to be able to straighten it out very easily on its own. As far as the general's concerned, when I first heard about it, I said, "Huh, that doesn't sound wrong." My counsel came, Don McGann, White House counsel, and he told me. And I asked him. And he can speak very well for himself. He said he doesn't think anything is wrong. Really didn't think — it was really what happened after that. He didn't think anything was done wrong. I didn't either. I waited a period of time. To me, he was doing the job. The information was provided by, who I don't know, Sally Yates, and I was a little surprised because I said, "Doesn't sound like he did anything wrong there." But he did something wrong with respect to the vice president. And I thought that was not acceptable. As far as the actual making the call. In fact, I've watched various programs and I've read various articles where he was just doing his job. It was very normal.
At first everybody got excited because they thought he did something wrong. After they thought about it, it turned out he was just doing his job. And I do — and by the way, with all of that being said — I do think he's a fine man.
Reporter: Sir, if I could, on the leaks — on the leaks, sir...
Trump: John, go ahead, finish up.
Reporter: What will you do on the leaks? You've said twice today?
Trump: Yes, we're looking at them, very serious. I've gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies, and we're — I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks.
Those are criminal leaks. They are put out by people either in agencies. I think you'll see it stopping because now we have our people in. Again, we don't have our people in because we can't get them approved by the Senate.
We just had Jeff Sessions approved. Injustice as an example. So, we are looking into that very seriously. It's a criminal act. You know what I say, when I... when I was called out on Mexico, I was shocked because all this equipment, all this incredible phone equipment... when I was called out on Mexico, I was — honestly — I was really, really surprised.
But I said, "You know, it doesn't make sense. That won't happen." But that wasn't that important a call, it was fine. I could show it to the world and he could show it to the world, the president who's a very fine man, by the way. Same thing with Australia. I said, "That's terrible that it was leaked,"but it wasn't that important.
But then I said to myself, "What happens when I'm dealing with the problem of North Korea? What happens when I'm dealing with the problems in the Middle East?" Are you folks going to be reporting all of that very, very confidential information, very important, very... you know, I mean, at the highest level? Are you going to be reporting about that, too? So I don't want classified information getting out to the public and in a way that was almost a test.
So I'm dealing with Mexico, I'm dealing with Argentina, we were dealing on this case with Mike Flynn. All this information gets put into the Washington Post and gets put into the New York Times and I'm saying, "What's going to happen when I'm dealing on the Middle East? What's going to happen when I'm dealing with really, really important subjects like North Korea?"
We got to stop it. That's why it's a criminal penalty.
Reporter: 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.
It's very important to me and especially in this position. It's very important. I don't mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true and, you know, over a course of time, I'll make mistakes and you'll write badly and I'm okay with that. But I'm not okay when it is fake.
I mean, I watch CNN, it's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don't watch it any more because it's very good — he's saying, "No." It's okay, Jim. It's okay, 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. I know how good everybody's ratings are right now but I think that actually... I think that'd actually be better.
People — I mean, you have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that's right. I don't know, Peter, is that one right? Because you know I think they have lower... I heard lower than Congress.
But honestly, the public would appreciate it, I'd appreciate it — again, I don't mind bad stories when it's true but we have an administration where the Democrats are making it very difficult. I think we're setting a record or close to a record in the time of approval of a Cabinet. I mean, the numbers are crazy. When I'm looking, some of them had them approved immediately.
I'm going forever and I still have a lot of people that we're waiting for. And that's all they're doing, is delaying. And you look at [Sen. Chuck] Schumer and the mess that he's got over there and they have nothing going. The only thing they can do is delay. And, you know, I think that they'd be better served by, you know, approving and making sure that they're happy and everybody's good.
And sometimes... I mean, I know President Obama lost three or four, and you lose them on the way, and that's okay. That's fine. But I think it would — I think they would be much better served, John, if they just went through the process quickly. This is pure delay tactics.
And they say it, and everybody understands it. Yeah, go ahead, Jim.
Reporter: The first part of my question, the context. Can you definitively say nobody —
Trump: Well, I had nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there, I have no anything. Now, when WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they're not giving classified information. They're giving stuff — what was said at 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, okay? He should be put in the electric chair. You would even call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, okay? Maybe not you, John. Yes. We'll do you next, Jim.
Reporter: Clarify... this important point. Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador?
Trump: No, I didn't.
Reporter: Prior to your administration?
Trump: No, I didn't. Excuse me — I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple. Mike was doing his job. he was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it. I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him because that's his job.
And it came out that way and in all fairness... I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night say he was doing his job. And I agreed with him. And since then, I've watched many other people say that. No, I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him if he didn't do it. Jim?
Reporter: Just for the record, we don't hate you. I don't hate you. Pass that along.
Trump: Ask Jim how he got his job.
Reporter: If I may follow up on some of the questions so far here, sir, and I don't know which microphone to hold here. I've got three.
Trump: Your ratings aren't as good as...
Reporter: They're pretty good, actually. You said earlier that Wikileaks was revealing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the election cycle. You welcomed that at one campaign rally. You said you loved Wikileaks. At another campaign press conference you called on the Russians to find the missing 30,000 emails. I'm wondering, sir, if...
Trump: She's actually missing 33,000 and then it got extended...
Reporter: Maybe my numbers are off
Trump: No, but I did say 30. But it was higher.
Reporter: It sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes to leaking if that is something that you encouraged during the campaign.
Trump: No, but let me do one at a time. Do you mind?
Reporter: Yes, sir.
Trump: So in one case you're talking about highly classified information. In the other case you're talking about John Podesta saying bad things about the boss. I will say this: If John Podesta said this about me, and he was working for me, I would have fired him so fast your head would have spun. He said terrible things about her. But it wasn't classified information. In one case you're talking about classified — regardless, if you look at the RNC, we had a very strong — at my suggestion and I give Reince [Priebus] great credit for this. At my suggestion, as I know something about this world, I said I want a very strong defensive mechanism. I don't want to be hacked. And we did that. And you have seen that they tried to hack us and they failed. The DNC did not do that. And if they did it, they would not have been hacked, but they were and terrible things came in. Some of the things — when I heard of those things, I picked up the papers and said this will be front page. It wasn't even in the papers. Again, if I had that happen to me, it would be the biggest story in the history of publishing or the head of newspapers. I would have been the headline in every newspaper. Think of it. They gave her the questions to a debate and she should have reported herself. Why didn't Hillary Clinton announce that, "I'm sorry, but I have been given the questions to a debate or a town hall, and I feel that it's inappropriate, and I want to turn in CNN for not doing a good job."
Reporter: If I may follow that up, something Jonathan Karl was asking you about. "The leaks are real but the news is fake." I guess I don't understand. It seems that there's a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?
Trump: The reporting is fake.
Reporter: I just want to ask...
Trump: Here's the thing. The public is — they read newspapers.
They see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved, I've been involved with the stuff all my life. But I'm involved, so I know when you are telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things.
I'll tell you what else I see. Tone. The word "tone." The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. But the tone is such... I do get good ratings. You have to admit that: The tone is such hatred.
I watched this morning a couple of the networks. And Fox & Friends in the morning, they are very honorable people. Not because they are good — because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show. That's all I can say. It's the most honest.
But the tone, Jim [Acosta]. If you look at the hatred. Sometimes somebody gets... well, you look at your show that goes on at 10:00 in the evening. You just take a look at that show.
That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn't have good ratings, but the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network.
Now I will say this, I watch it, I see it. I am amazed by it. And I just think you'd be a lot better off, I honestly do. The public gets it. When I go to rallies, they turn around and start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN. I think you'd do much better by being different. But you just take a look. Take a look at some of your shows in the morning and the evening. If a guest comes out and says something positive about me, it's brutal. Now they'll take this news conference, I'm actually having a very good time. But they'll take this news conference. That's the way I won. I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was like every day. I won with news conference 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'll say, "Trump rants and raves at the press." I'm just telling you. You're dishonest people. But I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it. Tomorrow the headlines are going to be, "Donald Trump rants and raves." I'm not ranting and raving.
Reporter: If I may, just one more follow-up.
Trump: Should I let him have a little more time because of this? Peter, should I let him have — sit down. sit down.
Reporter: Just because the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I want to ask you, sir —
Trump: I'm changing it from fake news. Very fake news.
Reporter: But aren't you —
Trump: Go ahead.
Reporter: Real news, Mr. President.
Trump: And you're not related to our new —
Reporter: I am not related, sir. I do like the sound of Secretary Acosta.
Trump: I looked at that name. Wait a minute. Is there any relation?
Reporter: I'm sure you checked that out.
Trump: They said, no, sir. I said go back and check the family tree.
Reporter: Aren't you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, when you call stories you don't like fake news? Why don't you just say, "It's a story I don't like."
Trump: I do that.
Reporter: You're undermining confidence in our news media.
Trump: You are right about that, except this. See, I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. Sometimes they'll say, "Wow, that's going to be a great story." And I'll get killed. I know what's good and bad. I'd be a pretty good reporter. Not as good as you. I know what's good. I know what's bad. When they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive. Sometimes something that should be positive, they'll make okay. They'll even make it negative. So I understand it. Because I'm there. I know what was said, who was saying it. I'm there. So it's very important to me.
Look. I want to see an honest press. 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. 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. Of course, he had some questions also. But if you were straight, I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me.
But as you go, as an example, you're CNN, it's story after story after story is bad. I won. I won. And the other thing, chaos. There's zero chaos. We are running — this is a fine-tuned machine. Reince [Priebus] is doing a good job. Half his job is putting out lies by the press. I said to him yesterday, "This whole Russia scam that you are building so that you don't talk about the real subject which is illegal leaks." But I watched him yesterday working so hard to try and get that story proper. And I'm saying here's my chief of staff. A really good guy. Did a phenomenal job at the RNC. Won the election. Won the presidency. We got some senators all over the country, you take a look. He's done a great job. and I said, "You take a look at Reince. He's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. They are fake. They are not true." And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care. He'd rather be working on tax reform, Jim. I mean that. I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right. I understand there's a certain bias by Jeff [Zucker] or somebody, for whatever reason. But — and I understand that. But you've got to be at least a little bit fair. And that's why the public sees it. They see it. They see it's not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias, the hatred. And the public is smart. They understand it.
OK, yeah, go ahead.
Reporter: For those who believe that there is something to it, is there anything that you have learned over these last few weeks that you might be able to reveal that might ease their concerns that this isn't fake news?
Trump: I think they don't believe it. That's why the Rasmussen poll has me through the roof. I don't think they believe it. One of the reasons I'm here today is to tell you the whole Russian thing is a ruse. And by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia. Just so you understand that.
Now, tomorrow you'll see, "Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia. This is terrible." It's not terrible. It's good. We had Hillary Clinton trying to do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20% of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is? This thing called nuclear weapons and other things, like lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things. Nobody talks about that.
I didn't do anything for Russia. I've done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20% of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks here. He looked at her like, "What the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?" Hillary Clinton — that was the reset. It said "reset." If I do that, oh, I'm a bad guy.
If we could get along with Russia, that's a positive thing. We have a talented man, Rex Tillerson, who will be meeting with them shortly. I told him. I know politically it's probably not good for me. The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone will say, "Oh, it's so great." That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you have had a lot of presidents that haven't taken that tack. Look where we are now. Look where we are now. So if I can, now — I love to negotiate things. I do it really well and all that stuff. But it's possible I won't be able to get along with Putin. Maybe it is.
But I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said, you know, he's sitting behind his desk and saying, "You know, I see what's going on in the United States. I follow it closely. It's going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he's got with this fake story." And that's a shame. Because if we could get along with Russia and ... it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.
Reporter: Is tax reform on the line?
Trump: Tax reform is going to happen fairly quickly. We're doing Obamacare. We're in the final stage. We should be submitting the plan in March. We have to, for reasons of budget — frankly the tax would be easier, but for statutory reasons and budgetary reasons we have to submit the health care soon. Early March, mid-March and after that we're going to come up and we're doing very well on tax reform.
Reporter: Mr. President, you mentioned Russia, let's talk about some serious issues, you mentioned the spy vessel.
Trump: Not good.
Reporter: There's a ballistic missile test.
Trump: Not good.
Reporter: And a U.S. Russian plane.
Trump: Excuse me, excuse me, when did it happen? It happened — if you were Putin right now you would say we're back to the old games with the United States. There's no way Trump can ever do a deal with us because you have to understand if I was just brutal on Russia right now you would say isn't that beautiful I know you well enough, then you would say he was too tough.
Reporter: I'm just trying to find out what you're going to do about it, Mr. President.
Trump: Putin is probably figuring he's not going to make a deal because it's politically not appropriate.
Reporter: How are you interpreting those moves? Are you giving Rex Tillerson any advice?
Trump: I have, I have. And so honored.
Reporter: Is Putin testing you do you believe, sir?
Trump: No, I assume Putin believes he can't make a deal with me anymore. I can't believe I'm saying I'm a politician. I guess that's what I am now. It would be much easier to be tough on Russia. Now look — we might not make a deal with Russia, we might, we might not. You know what, I want to do the right thing for the American people and to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world. If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along, don't forget we're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I've been briefed and I can tell you one thing and a briefing that we're allowed to say because anybody that read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.
If we have a good relationship with Russia that's a good thing not a bad thing.
Reporter: When you say they're not good. Do they damage the relationship they undermine this country's ability to work with Russia?
Trump: They all happened recently and I understand what they're doing because they're doing the same thing. Now again, maybe I'm not going to be able to do a deal with Russia, but at least I tried. Does anybody really think Hillary Clinton would be tougher on Russia than Donald Trump? Does anybody in this room really believe that? She tried to make a deal, had that reset, gave all that valuable uranium thing. She's close to Russia. You know what I gave to Russia? Nothing.
Reporter: Can we conclude there will be no response to these particular provocations?
Trump: I'm not going to tell you about anything I'm going to do, I don't talk about military response. I don't say I'm going into Mosul in four months. "We are going to attack Mosul in four months." Then three months later, "We are going to attack Mosul in one month." "Next week, we are going to attack Mosul." I don't talk about military and I don't talk about certain other things you're going to be surprised today hear that and by the way — my whole campaign — I would say that. I don't want to be one of these guys that say, "Yes, here is 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. 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 I'm going to do with the Russian ship, for example, Ii'm not going to tell you. Hopefully, I won't have to do anything, but I'm not going to tell.
Reporter: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Trump: Where are you from?
Trump: Another beauty.
Reporter: A good line. "Impartial, free and fair."
Trump: Yeah, sure. Just like CNN. Right.
Reporter: On the travel ban — we can banter back and forth — would you accept that was a good example of smooth running —
Trump: Wait, wait. I know who you are. Wait. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban, but had a bad court, may be wrong, but I think it's 80% of the time. We're going to put in a new executive order next week sometime, but we had a bad decision. That's the only thing wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports. You had some people that were put out there, brought by very nice buses, and they were put out at various locations and despite that the only problem we had was we had a bad court, we had a court what I consider to be — with great respect — a very bad decision. Very bad for the safety and security of our country, the rollout was perfect.
What I wanted to do was the exact same with the executive order and I said this to my people: "Give them a one-month period of time." But General [John] Kelly, now Secretary Kelly said, "If you do that, all these people will come in, the ... bad ones."
You do agree there are bad people out there, right? That not everybody that's like you. You have some bad people out there.
Kelly said, "You can't do that." And he was right. As soon as he said it, I said, "Wow, never thought of it." I said, "How about one week?" He said, "No good. You got to do it immediately because if you do it immediately they don't have time to come in."
Nobody ever reports that. We would have wasted a lot of time and maybe a lot of lives, in the meantime we're vetting very, very strongly, very, very strongly. But we need help and we need help by getting that executive order passed.
Reporter: Just a brief follow-up. But if it's so urgent, why not introduce —
Trump: Yes? Go ahead.
Reporter: Thank you. I was just hoping that we could get a yes-or-no answer on one of these questions involving Russia. Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?
Trump: Well I told you, Gen. Flynn obviously was dealing. So that's one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.
Reporter: During the election?
Trump: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody...
Reporter: So you're not aware of any contact during the course of the election?
Trump: Look, look, look. How many times do I have to answer this question?
Reporter: Can you just say yes or no?
Trump: Russia was a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia, haven't made a phone call to Russia in years, don't speak to people. Not that I wouldn't. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election, I told you this, and he called me on the inauguration a few days ago. We had a very good talk, especially the second one lasted for a pretty long period of time. I'm sure you probably get it because it was classified, so I'm sure everybody in this room perhaps has it, but we had a very, very good talk. I have nothing to do with Russia, no person that i deal with does. [Paul] Manafort totally denied it. People knew he was a consultant in that part of the world, but not for Russia. I think people having to do with Ukraine or whoever, but people knew that, everybody knew that.
Reporter: In his capacity as your campaign manager was he in touch with Russian officials during the election?
Trump: No, he told me no. But he was in place long before the election. But Paul Manafort — also a good man by the way — was replaced long before the election took place. He was only there for a short period of time. How much longer should we stay here, folks? Five more minutes. Is that OK? Five?
I want to find a friendly reporter. Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.
Reporter: So, first of all, my name is Jake Turx. I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic, we have an understanding — [inaudible]. However, what we are concerned about and haven't being heard addressed is how the government is planning to take care of it. There are reports that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers across the week. There are people committing anti-Semitic threats.
Trump: He said he was going to ask a easy question — okay, sit down, I understand the rest of your question. Folks, number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have seen in your entire life. Number two, racism. The least racism. We did relatively well — quiet, quiet, quiet. See, he lied about what was going to be a very straight, simple question. 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 said, "Forget it," so you should take that instead of getting up and asking a very insulting question like that. Just shows you about the press, but that's the way the press is.
Reporter: From the PBS News Hour. On the DACA program for immigration, do you plan to continue the program or end it?
Trump: We're going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me. For me, it's one of the most difficult I have. Because you have these incredible kids, in many cases — not all — in some cases they have the DACA — drug dealers and gang members, too — but absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly they were brought here in such a way — it's a very tough subject, we're going to have to deal with DACA with a lot of heart and I have a lot of politicians, don't forget, and I have to convince them what I'm saying is right and I appreciate your understanding on that, but the DACA situation is a very, very difficult thing for me because I love these kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do. And you know the law is rough. I'm not talking about new laws, I'm talking the existing law is very, very rough — it's very, very rough. The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider a very bad decision, but we can tailor it to get in some ways more, but tailoring it now to the decision. We have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it and the new executive order is being tailored from the decision we got down from the court, okay?
Reporter: [Inaudible question] …Can you talk a little bit and what first lady Melania Trump does for the country, by opening the White House visitor's office, what does that mean to you?
Trump: Now that's what I call a nice question. Who are you with?
Reporter: UNF News.
Trump: Thank you very much. We had dinner with Senator Rubio — who by the way, his wife is very lovely — and we had a very good discussion on Cuba, and they were very good to me, and I think Melania is going to be outstanding opening up the visitors' tours of the White House, she feels very strongly about women's issues, she's a very, very strong advocate. I think she's a great representative for this country, and a funny thing happens because she gets so unfairly — the things they say, I've known her a very long time, she was a very successful person, very successful model, she did very well. She would go home at night and didn't even want to go out with people. She was a very private person, always the highest quality, and the things they say, I've known her a long time, and things that were said were so unfair, but I'll just tell you this, she's going to be a fantastic first lady, and representative of the people and working with her will be Ivanka, who is a fabulous person and fabulous woman. They're not doing this for money or pay, they're doing it because they feel it personally, and after Baron finishes school — because it's hard to take a child out of school with a few months left — she and Baron will be moving over to the White House. Thank you, that's a very nice question.
Go ahead. This is going to be a bad question, but that's okay.
Reporter: Mr. President, I need to find out from you, you said something as it relates to inner cities, one of your platforms.
Trump: Fixing the inner cities.
Reporter: What will be that fix, and your urban agenda, as well as your HBCU executive order that's coming out this afternoon? See, that wasn't bad.
Trump: That was very professional.
Reporter: I’m very professional.
Trump: I will let the order speak for itself, but we'll talk to you about that after the announcement. As far as the inner cities, I think it's what got me much higher the African-American vote, we did much higher, I was honored by that and including the Hispanic vote, which, might I add, the women vote, which was much higher than people thought I was going to get, so we are going to be working very hard, having to do with education, having to do with crime, we're going to try and fix as quickly as possible.
It takes a long time, 100 years or more for some of these places to evolve and many of them very badly, but working very hard on health and health care, very, very hard on education, and also we're going to be working in a stringent way on crime, you go to some of these inner city places and it's so sad — we have people, and I have sort of witnessed it, in fact, two occasions actually witnessed it. They lock themselves into apartments, petrified to even leave in the middle of the day. They're living in hell. We can't let that happen.
It’s a great question and it's a very difficult situation because it's been many, many years, it's been festering for many, many years, but we have places in this country that we have to fix. We have to help African-American people that for the most part are stuck there, Hispanic-American people that are in the inner cities and are living in hell. You look at the numbers in Chicago. There are two Chicagos, as you know — there's one that's incredible, luxurious and safe, there's another Chicago that's worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk about and that you talk about every night on the news casts, so we're going to do a lot of work on the inner cities. I have a lot of great people lined up.
Reporter: When you say the inner cities, are you [going to] include the CBC in conversations with urban agenda, inner city?
Trump: Include who?
Reporter: The Congressional Black Caucus.
Trump: Well, I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting, set up the meeting. I would love to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, I think it's great. I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited. Then he said, "Oh, I can't move. It might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting." You know, we called him and called him. All set. I spoke to him.
Reporter: I hear he wanted that meeting with you as well.
Trump: He wanted it, but we called, called, called. They can't make a meeting with him. Everyday, I walk in and I would like the meeting, but he was probably told by [Sen. Chuck] Schumer, or somebody like that, some other lightweight, he was probably told, "Don't meet with Trump." It's bad politics and that's part of the problem in this country.
One more. Go ahead.
Reporter: One question. Two.
Trump: This room can't handle two. Give me the better of your two.
Reporter: It's not about your personality, or your beliefs. We're talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country, some of it by supporters in your name.
Trump: Can I be honest with you? This has to do with racism and horrible things put up, some of it written by our opponents, we do know that, do you understand that? You don't think anybody would do anything like that. Some of the signs are not put up by people that love Donald Trump. They're put up by the other side and you think it's playing it straight. No, some of the signs and anger is caused by the other side. They'll do signs and drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you. OK. Go ahead.
Reporter: What are you going do about it?
Trump: Oh, stand up.
Reporter: What are you going to do about the tensions?
Trump: I'm working on it. I'm working on it. Look, hey, just so you understand, we had a totally divided country for eight years in all fairness to President Obama, long before President Obama we have had a very divided — I didn't come along and divide this country. This country was seriously divided before I got here. One of the questions asked was about the inner cities, that's part of it, but we're going to work on education, try and stop crime. We have great law enforcement, we're not going to try and stop, we're going to stop crime. It's very important to me but this isn't Donald Trump that divided a nation. We went eight years with President Obama and many years before President Obama, we lived in a divided nation, and I am going to try, I will do everything within my power to fix that.
I want to thank everybody very much. It's a great honor to be with you. Thank you very much.