Donald Trump mounted an aggressive defense of his young presidency Thursday, lambasting 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 insisted in a freewheeling White House news conference that his new administration had made “significant progress” and took credit for an optimistic business climate and a rising stock market.
The president denounced media reports of a chaotic start to his administration marked by his contentious executive order — rejected by a federal appeals court — to place a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Trump said he would announce a “new and very comprehensive order to protect our people” next week.
“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” Trump declared in a lengthy news conference that saw the new commander in chief repeatedly interrupting reporters’ questions and airing his grievances.
Throughout the encounter the new president delivered recurring 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 on 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.”
Pressed repeatedly, Trump said that “nobody that I know of” on his campaign staff had contacted Russian officials. He called such 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 investigate.