Trump presser open thread: NBC reports Acosta new Labor pick; Update: Live video, live blogging
posted at 12:01 pm on February 16, 2017 by Ed Morrissey
Update: Trump claims that Elijah Cummings backed out of a meeting with him under political pressure from other Democrats.
Update: “We’re going to deal with DACA with heart,” Trump says. “I find it very very hard to do what the law says” in these instances. Says he will work with other politicians to find a solution to it.
Update: “I want to find a friendly reporter!” Welcome to the White House, Mr. President.
Update: Trump seems to be getting testier with the media the longer this goes. He defended the rollout of the executive order on immigration, saying it was “perfect.”
Update: Trump tells the media that their “fake news” on Russia is making things worse between the two countries and might be prompting some of the aggressive actions taken by Putin.
Update: Trump brings up the Uranium One deal, and wonders why the press are on his case about Russia.
Update: This sums up the Q&A so far:
This whole presser is one giant media pushback / fact check – trump supporters will love this – potus punching them in the mouth
— Matt Vespa (@mVespa1) February 16, 2017
Update: Trump and Jim Acosta had a pretty funny moment over the name of the Labor nominee. Trump claimed he checked out Alexander Acosta to make sure Jim was no relation, and Jim replied, “I like the sound of Secretary Acosta.”
Update: Trump offers up a pretty good question: Why didn’t Hillary blow the whistle on getting the debate questions herself?
Update: Takes a shot at Hillary Clinton for getting debate questions and the press for largely ignoring it.
Update: “I’m okay with bad stories,” Trump says, “as long as they’re true.” Takes another shot at CNN, and then promises Acosta a chance to respond.
Update: Jim Acosta got his question, too. Good question on reorganizing the intel community and the pursuit of leakers.
Update: Trump gets fact-checked on the Electoral College claim, and says he was given that information.
Update: Trump takes a shot at the WSJ for its story that the intel community is withholding information from the president.
Update: “I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I have no deals in Russia,” Trump declares. “Russia is fake news.”
Update: Trump says Flynn was doing his job, but he let Flynn go because of the misleading of Vice President Mike Pence. Clearly unhappy about that.
Update: First question is about Flynn, and Trump says the real issue is the leaking of classified information. The Russia-contacts story is “all fake news,” Trump says, and the focus should be on the leaks. NPR’s Mara Liasson got the first question, by the way.
Update: This is a pretty lengthy and detailed presser statement. It’s been going on for 20 minutes or more now.
Update: Trump goes after the Ninth Circuit as “being in chaos,” and repeating the 80% overturned claim that’s just simply nonsense. It’s a strange attack to make when their case is still in the Ninth Circuit’s roster of district courts.
Update: Many people on Twitter noting that Trump’s wrong about his claim to have won the biggest Electoral College win “since Ronald Reagan.” George H. W. Bush got 426. Guy Benson’s correct on this point:
He repeats this a lot. It's wrong. Don't think most people care, but facts should matter. https://t.co/MC6IL7wgau
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 16, 2017
Update: “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved,” Trump declares. Stories of “chaos” at the White House are nonsense, Trump says.
Update: “Peace through strength.” Reminds press that he’s been fulfilling campaign promises, and that their surprise is due to “lying politicians” of the past.
Update: “ISIS has spread like a cancer — another mess I inherited.” Can’t wait for the howls of protest from former members of the previous administration who made that a mantra for eight years.
Update: “I inherited a mess … at home and abroad,” Trump declares. That sounds familiar.
Update: Trump spends a few more moments attacking the “dishonest” media, mostly out of New York and Los Angeles.
Update: Trump cites new Rasmussen poll that has his approval rating at 55%, lauds his first four weeks. Takes a couple of shots at the press.
Update: Finally got under way, 27 minutes late. Trump leads off with the Acosta pick.
Update: I’ll be adding some live blogging to this post, with updates coming here at the top and in reverse chronological order.
Update: Live video via ABC News:
Original post follows …
At 12:30 pm ET, Donald Trump will convene an open press conference, the first since Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser and Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination as Secretary of Labor. Trump promised that he would reveal Puzder’s replacement at the presser, but NBC reported that he has chosen former NLRB commissioner Alexander Acosta as his next nominee. As Josh Kraushaar notes, Acosta would become the first Hispanic Cabinet nominee by Trump:
BREAKING: NBC News confirms President Trump will announce Alexander Acosta as his pick for Labor Secretary.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 16, 2017
First Hispanic in the Cabinet, if confirmed… https://t.co/r8ynQ4eY3C
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) February 16, 2017
Who is Alexander Acosta? Heavy’s Brendan Morrow notes that he served as NLRB director during the Bush 43 administration for just under two years, and then another two years at the Department of Justice to head up its Civil Rights Division. In 2011, Acosta told Congress that it needed to work harder to safeguard the civil rights of Muslims in America:
In 2011, Acosta testified before Congress about the importance of protecting the civil rights of Muslim Americans. He said to the committee that “we are a nation build on principles of freedom, and high on the list of freedoms is freedom of religious expression. Indeed, as is well known to this Committee, this freedom pre-dates our Constitution.”
Acosta spoke about a variety of cases he has dealt with involving the civil rights of Muslims, including one instance where he instructed the Justice Department to intervene when a young girl was asked to take off her hijab in school. He goes on to talk about the importance of the president speaking up to defend Muslims.
“Our nation is strong because we respond to attack with resolve,” he said. “History has shown the need, however, for leadership that tempers resolve with wisdom. President George W. Bush understood this, when on September 17, 2001, he visited the Islamic Center of Washington D.C. to remind a resolute nation that ‘[t]hose who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger…should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.’ This was not the message many Americans wanted to hear at that time, but the President chose to lead, rather than to be led.”
Acosta appears to be a much more traditional candidate to push through a balky Senate. One of the early knocks on Puzder was his lack of public-sector experience, but Acosta has plenty of that on his resumé. The shift from Puzder to Acosta would signal a pullback on outside-the-box candidates, and perhaps a pressing need to get people in place to get to work.
Update: Fox News confirms it’s Acosta:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 16, 2017
Update: Here’s another question — will Trump announce Flynn’s replacement? It’s been widely reported now that Vice Admiral Robert Harward has been offered the job, so if there’s no announcement today on it, it would seem to indicate that the White House needs to keep looking. Harward, like Acosta, represents a shift to the conventional.