Angry Trump attacks journalists at chaotic press conference: 'These elections defied history'

Republicans lost the House but managed to hold on to the Senate 

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Wednesday 07 November 2018 20:24 GMT
Donald Trump attacks CNN reporter Jim Acosta in angry post-Midterms press conference

Donald Trump – grumpy and perhaps sleep deprived – sought to defend the midterm elections as “an incredible day” for Republicans, despite his party losing the House of Representatives and opening the door to two years of intense scrutiny from Democrats.

Having praised Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Twitter, saying she deserved to be speaker of the House, he said he was ready to work with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

But during at an appearance at which he repeatedly snapped at the media and ordered reporters to sit down, displaying a degree of venom that was shocking even given his propensity for such attacks, the president made clear that such cooperation depended on them not launching a series of investigations into him or his administration – something many Democrats have already made clear they intend to do.

“It was a big day yesterday, an incredible day,” he said, in what was apparently only his third formal solo news conference at the White House. “Last night the Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House.”

Of the potential to work with Democrats, he added: “It really could be a beautiful bipartisan situation.”

Yet he said such cooperation depended on Democrats not seeking to hold endless hearing and investigations – something he said Republicans could also do through their continuing control of the Senate. “You can’t do it simultaneously,” he said.

He added: ”They can play that game, but we can play it better. All you’re going to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is going to go up and we won’t have done a thing.”

The president spoke the morning after a day in which the political power structure shifted sharply in the US, Democrats winning 26 House seats to take control of the lower chamber for the first time since 2010. Even if Democrats opt not to push for impeachment hearings, they could hold a endless hearing, subpoena members of the government and act at a block to many of his policy ambitions.

Republicans managed to gain two seats in the senate, something Mr Trump said had not healed for 100 years. After mocking those Republican candidates who lost their seats after refusing to embrace him on the campaign trail, among them congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Mr Trump claimed the gains in the Senate outweighed the loss of the House – a view few pundits would share.

What do the midterms mean for Trump?

When the new congress is sworn in next January, Democrats will head House committees that can investigate the president’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and any links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.

The Associated Press said Mr Trump’s remarks came after Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said he had spoken with Ms Pelosi about how they might “find a way forward” in a divided congress next year.

The GOP “had a very good day” on Tuesday despite the House loss, Mr McConnell said. “I’m proud of what happened. The president was very helpful to us.”

On Tuesday night, Ms Pelosi told supporters: “Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration.”

But on Wednesday, while Mr Trump was speaking at the White House, Ms Pelosi was speaking on Capitol Hill and pointing out the limitations to possible cooperation. For starters, she said, Democrats did not support Mr Trump’’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the US-Mexico border.

She said the Democrats now had a “responsibility for oversight” when they take charge of the House in January. If elected speaker, Ms Pelosi said she would leave final decisions about that oversight to committees.

She would not answer a question about whether they will seek Mr Trump’s tax filings, but said committee requests for documents or hearings would not be be “scattershot”.

She added: “We’ll know what we are doing and we’ll do it right.”

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