WASHINGTON — President Trump asked his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to resign because he misled Vice President Pence about his calls to the Russian ambassador to the United States, Trump said in a wide-ranging and surprising news conference Thursday.
Trump’s comments about Flynn came after a more-than-20-minute opening statement in which he criticized the news media, bragged about the number of electoral votes he received in November and said the Islamic State is “another mess I inherited” from predecessor, Barack Obama. He lashed out repeatedly at what he called “fake news” and at reporters, who he accused of distorting what he has done as president 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.
He 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 said he doesn’t believe Flynn did anything wrong, but his failure to adequately inform Pence about his Russian contacts was unacceptable.
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,” he said.
He said his administration, just shy of four weeks old, has taken “unprecedented action on behalf of the great citizens of our country.”
“And we haven’t even started the big work,” Trump said. “That starts early next week.”