WASHINGTON — President Trump defended his weeks-old administration as a "fine-tuned machine," lamented the "mess" he inherited from his predecessor, and lambasted the "fake news" media during a wide-ranging news conference Thursday.
He said he asked his former national security adviser Michael Flynn to resign because he misled Vice President Pence about his calls to the Russian ambassador to the United States, but he said he didn't believe Flynn did anything wrong by calling and he faulted leakers for providing contents of the intercepted calls to the media.
Trump accused the media of distorting what he has done since taking office and failing to accurately cover his administration.
"I see stories of chaos, chaos, yet it is the exact opposite," he said. "This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved."
Trump ticked off all the executive actions he has taken, including those freezing federal hiring and rule-making, ordering a one regulation in-two out policy, and seeking to expedite permits for construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline.
He said his administration is preparing for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and has already begun work to start construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
"I'm here following through on what I pledged to do, that’s all I'm doing," he said.
Trump said his administration has also been working hard to address problems he inherited from his predecessor, Barack Obama. He cited companies moving jobs overseas, instability in the Middle East and the threat posed by North Korea.
“To be honest, I inherited a mess,” Trump said. “It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess.”
Trump signaled he will issue a new immigration order next week and criticized the federal circuit court that let stand a stay of his last order banning Syrian refugees and temporarily halting travel to the United States from seven majority Muslim countries.
"That circuit is in chaos…in turmoil," he said. "We are appealing that."
Trump did not provide details of the new order he plans to issue but said it will be "very much tailored" to avoid problems judges had with his last one.
He said it was his duty to keep Americans safe from terrorism, something the first order was intended to do by blocking potential terrorists from entering the United States.
"I will not back down from defending our country," Trump said. "I got elected on defense of our country and I keep my campaign promises."
The president said he is creating a new office in the Department of Homeland Security dedicated to the "forgotten American victims" of crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally.
When asked what he plans to do with noncriminal immigrants who were brought in illegally by their parents, Trump said his administration is "going to show great heart," although he did not say how. President Barack Obama had signed an executive order allowing them to stay temporarily in the United States, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
"The DACA situation is a very very, it’s a very difficult thing for me,” Trump said, adding that a lot of them are “incredible kids.”
The president declined to say what the United States might do to respond to recent Russian actions. A Russian spy ship was spotted 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut this week, and Russian planes have reportedly buzzed U.S. Navy ships in the Red Sea.
Trump said the actions were "not good" but he wants to try and get along with Russia. He blasted former secretary of State Hillary Clinton for trying unsuccessfully to do so, and noted that she presented Putin with a "stupid plastic button" as a symbol of resetting U.S.-Russia relations.
"I would love to be able to get along with Russia," Trump said, adding that if he decided to respond to the country's latest actions, he wouldn't announce it publicly. "I'm not going to tell you anything."
The president insisted the American people support him, citing a Rasmussen poll released earlier Thursday in which 55% of likely voters approve of the job he’s doing. He said the stock record has hit record highs since he won election and there is a “tremendous surge of optimism in the business world.”
However, a poll from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center also released Thursday showed only 39% of those surveyed said Trump was doing a job as president, while 55% disapproved of his performance. Most recent polls have shown that a majority of respondents disapproved of Trump's performance.
The president remained unfazed by reports that contradicted his assertions.
“Plants and factories are already starting to move back into the United States, and big league — Ford, General Motors, so many of them,” he said.
Trump said he is fulfilling one promise after another, unlike other politicians who “lied to the American people in order to get elected,” and he falsely claimed to have had the biggest Electoral College victory since Ronald Reagan. (His 304-vote win was the biggest since Obama won 332 votes in 2012.)
He also referred to a large campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday (“I heard — just heard that the crowds are massive that want to be there”) and said that when it comes to governing, he is just getting started.
“This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country,” Trump said. “There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time. And we have not even started the big work yet. That starts early next week.”
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