In his first press conference in nearly six months, President-elect Donald Trump did something completely unexpected on Wednesday morning (Jan. 11): he praised the mainstream media. Reacting to a BuzzFeed report on Tuesday that contained salacious, unconfirmed allegations about the real estate mogul's ties to Russia and alleged activities while in Russia, Trump opened the media event by thanking organizations that did not reprint the story, while taking yet another shot at American intelligence agencies.
"I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows?" he said. "But maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot. Because a thing like that should have never been written, it should never been had and it should certainly have never been released."
The event opened with incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer vehemently dismissing the BuzzFeed report, which he called "outrageous," "shameful" and "highly irresponsible," slamming BuzzFeed and CNN for what he called a "sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks." Incoming Vice President, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, followed, also denigrating what he called "fake news," which he attributed to media bias and "an attempt to demean" the President-elect less than two weeks before Trump's inauguration. "Today we'll get back to real news, to real facts and the real progress our incoming president has already made in reviving the American economy," he said.
The reports in the BuzzFeed story have reportedly been circulating for several months in Washington and among journalists and while U.S. intelligence agencies have not substantiated the claims, they reportedly thought them serious enough to brief President Obama and Trump on the contents; the Kremlin has denied that it has compromising information on Trump. Denying the claims that he was involved in untoward acts in a Russian hotel room, Trump said he's hyper-aware of "cameras in the strangest places" and besides, he's a well-known germaphobe.
During the event, promoted as a chance for Trump to explain how he will extricate himself from his far-flung business dealings around the world while president, the billionaire businessman said that he believes "it was Russia" who hacked into the DNC and RNC during the election, the first time in public he has made that allegation. At Trump's last official press conference in July he famously encouraged Russians hackers to crack into rival Hillary Clinton's emails.
Trump made a habit of belittling and attacking the mainstream media during his campaign, calling them "dishonest" and "corrupt" on a daily basis and at one point in the presser he refused to call on a CNN reporter, saying "you are fake news." In addition to claiming that, legally, he could continue to run his business and serve as president at the same time if he wanted to (though he does not), the former Celebrity Apprentice star also claimed that his actions to date have already revitalized the domestic auto industry. He also claimed that he's been told that the "spirit of revival" in the nation tied to his upcoming administration is "unprecedented" in the nation's history.
Amid reports of difficulties securing talent for his inaugural activities, Trump said it will be a "beautiful event" with "great talent, tremendous talent," citing expected performances from "most" of the bands representing the various branches of the military. "I've heard some of these bands over the years they're incredible," he said. "We're gonna have a very, very elegant day... and I think we're going to have massive crowds."
He once again promised to repeal and replace the "imploding" Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") "almost simultaneously" with the confirmation of his secretary of health and human services, Tom Price. As with Congressional Republicans, Trump offered no details however on what his replacement plan will be. Asked about releasing his tax returns, Trump labeled the issue a media obsession, but claimed that most Americans don't care to see them and reiterated that he can't because they are allegedly under audit. He also said that his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, will run his business and that they will not discuss its dealings with him during his term.