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On Thursday, President Trump held a press conference in the White House East Room that ran for more than an hour. It started with him briefly introducing his choice for labor secretary, and then embarking on a long monologue about the successes of his presidency and the evil of the media. He then took questions covering a wide range of issues. Here are a few of the more memorable quotes from the president.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right.”
This was the president’s defense of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned Tuesday night. Flynn submitted his resignation after it was reported that he had discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia with the country’s ambassador, and then lied to Vice President Pence about the topics of their conversations.
“We’re becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We are not going to let it happen any longer.”
Trump said he ordered the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to come up with a plan for stopping criminal cartels from bringing drugs into the United States.
“I was given that information; I don’t know.”
During the press conference, Trump said that he had won the largest Electoral College victory since Ronald Reagan. Reporter Peter Alexander pointed out that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both exceeded (in both their victories) Trump’s 306 electoral votes. Trump said he meant by a Republican, but Alexander pointed out the George H.W. Bush also won more votes: 426. “I was given that information; I don’t know,” the president said, adding: “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, would you agree with that?”
“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.”
This comment was part of a response to a question about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is testing Trump, given the Russian military’s recent deployment of a ground-based cruise missile, reports this week that multiple Russian aircraft buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea, and the discovery of a Russian spy vessel off the coast of Connecticut.
“No, I don’t think so,” Trump replied, repeating the argument he’d made earlier in the press conference that Putin’s behavior is likely a reaction to recent news out of the U.S.
“I think Putin probably assumes that he can’t make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal,” Trump added, arguing that, while it would be easier for him to be tough on Russia, it would be much better for the U.S. and the world if the two countries got along because “don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they.”
“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.”
Regarding reported communications between his campaign and Russian officials, a reporter asked the president to clarify, “Is it fake news or are these real leaks?” Trump attempted to explain that while the leaks actually happened and were real, the stories that resulted from the leaks were fake news.
“Russia is fake news.”
Continuing on the subject of his connections with Russia, Trump stated that he owns nothing in the country and has no loans there. He added: “Russia — this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that there are people probably from the Obama administration because they are there.”
“She was always the highest quality that you’ll ever find.”
Trump was describing his wife, first lady Melania Trump. A series of media reports this week said that Melania was depressed about her new position. The president listed his wife’s accomplishments, predicted that she should be a fantastic first lady, and said she will be working with his daughter Ivanka, “a fabulous person.”
“Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember? With the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks. Here, take a look. He looked at her like, what the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?”
Trump spent a great deal of time Thursday both discussing the United States’ future negotiations with Russia and reliving his campaign against Hillary Clinton. The reference to a button was to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, when she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a symbolic “reset” button in March 2009.
“And I have to say, ‘Fox & Friends’ in the morning — they’re very honorable people.”
While haranguing the press in general for allegedly reporting “many, many untruthful things” and having a “tone” of hatred, Trump praised the conservative-leaning morning show “Fox & Friends” for what he considers the staff’s honesty. The president added: “They’re very — not because they’re 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.”
“Obamacare, they fill up our alleys with people you wonder how they got there.”
Trump was discussing his administration’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in Congress and the White House have yet to announce a plan to replace the health care program, with some GOP members in the House saying they won’t vote for anything that doesn’t eliminate all aspects of the program, including the popular Medicaid expansion. The reference to “fill[ing] up alleys with people” was not explained.
“No. 1: I’m the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2: Racism — the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”
Jake Turx, a journalist for the Orthodox Jewish magazine Ami, asked Trump to address concerns among some in the Jewish community that he was not condemning a rise in anti-Semitism in recent weeks — leading the president to defend himself against a personal charge of anti-Semitism, which Turx did not make.
“Are they friends of yours?”
This question was directed to reporter April Ryan, who had asked him about working with the Congressional Black Caucus to help with issues concerning inner cities. Trump asked Ryan, an African-American, if she could help set up a meeting with the CBC. The CBC tweeted after the news conference that it had sent a letter to Trump and hoped to set up a meeting on January 19.
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