Mon | Feb 20, 2017

US president bashes news media, defends start of administration

Published:Friday | February 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Trump

WASHINGTON (AP):

President Donald Trump mounted a vigorous defence of his presidency yesterday, pushing back against media reports that his campaign advisers had inappropriate contact with Russian officials and vowing to crack down on the leaking of classified information.

Nearly a month into his presidency, Trump said in a free-wheeling White House news conference that his new administration had made "significant progress" and took credit for an optimistic business climate and a soaring stock market.

The president denounced media reports of a chaotic start to his administration marked by a contentious executive order now tied up in a legal fight to place a ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

"This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine," Trump declared. He said he would announce a "new and very comprehensive order to protect our people."

Throughout the news conference in the East Room of the White House, the new president delivered repeated criticism of the news media, accusing it of being "out of control" and promising to take his message "straight to the people".

He dismissed recent reports in The New York Times and CNN that Trump campaign aides had been in contact with Russian officials before his election. Trump called Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager who has ties to Ukraine and Russia, a "respected man".

Trump called the reports a "ruse" and said he had "nothing to do with Russia". Trump added, "Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media."

Amid reports of widespread leaks within his administration, Trump also warned that he would clamp down on the dissemination of sensitive information, saying he had asked the Justice Department to look into the leaks. "Those are criminal leaks," he said, adding, "The leaks are real. The news is fake."

The president announced that Alexander Acosta, the dean of the Florida International University law school, would be his nominee for labour secretary. It came a day after fast-food executive Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination for Labour after losing support among Republican senators.