The five wildest things Trump said in his first press conference as president

Joe Biden is set to make his solo-debut with the Washington press-corps on Thursday

Louise Hall
Thursday 25 March 2021 15:46 GMT
Former President Donald Trump points at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia
Former President Donald Trump points at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia (AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden finally set a date for his solo press conference after fielding increasing backlash from Republicans and other critics for waiting an atypically long time into his presidency to take questions directly from the press.

In right-wing media outlets’ intense scrutiny of Biden’s decision to wait 64 days to hold a solo press conference, many critics have been quick to draw comparisons to his predecessor Donald Trump, who did so after 27 days.

The former president set the tone for his presidency, and his turbulent relationship with the Washington press corps, in an unabashed and at times bizarre meeting on 16 February 2017.

In the rambling 90-minute appearance, Mr Trump covered a range of defining issues from “fake news” to Russia, and celebrated his initial achievements, even going as far as to suggest there had “never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time”.

But, what were some of the wildest things he said during the “surreal” conference that officially saw the introduction of Mr Trump’s brazen presidential persona to reporters and the world?

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“I’d be a good reporter… I know what’s good.”

One prevailing theme during Mr Trump’s first-ever solo press conference was his unapologetic distaste for the national media, with a few exceptions,

He conveyed his negative opinion of the media, a defining element of his presidency by labelling outlets he disliked as “failing” and “fake news” and conveying a level of contempt towards particular journalists.

At one moment, Mr Trump even went as far as to suggest that he would make a “good reporter” in response to an accusation that he was “undermining the news media” with his attitude.

“I know when I should get good and when I should get bad. And sometimes I say, wow, that’s going to be a great story, and I’ll get killed,” the president said in response to an accusation that he only called stories he didn’t like fake news.

“I know what’s good and bad, I’d be a good reporter, but not as good as you. I know what’s good. I know what’s bad,” he said.

“Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore”

At one point in the conference, Mr Trump suggested that the American people want him to blow up a Russian spy ship that was lurking 30 miles off the US coast.

While discussing “shooting” the Viktor Leonov, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, which lies off the coast of Connecticut, he said: “Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it’s so great.”

“The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water…,” he said. “That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”

The Vishnya-class vessel is believed to be kitted out with high-tech spying equipment and is designed to intercept intelligence signals.

“I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”

While giving his initial speech, Mr Trump wrongly insisted that during the 2017 election he secured more electoral colleges than every president since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

However, fact-checkers have shown this is incorrect. Mr Trump in fact received a smaller share than former presidents George H W Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Overall, the former president ranks in the bottom third in terms of the size of his Electoral College win, PolitiFact reported.

When a journalist circled back to the claim later on in the press conference, Mr Trump said: “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. It was a substantial difference, do you agree with that?”

“You’re the president,” the reporter replied.

"I have nothing to do with Russia,"

While answering questions regarding allegations of Russian interference in the 2017 election, Mr Trump downplayed his relationship with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin amid mounting pressure over his and his team’s links to the country.

"I have nothing to do with Russia," he said. "Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia, not that I wouldn’t, but I just have nobody to speak to.”

Only months later, an investigation led by Robert Mueller into the alleged Russian interference would begin and go on to shadow two years of Mr Trump’s presidency.

The investigation found no actionable evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia but Mr Mueller said he could not clear the president on the question of possible obstruction of justice.

“You’re not related to our new [secretary of state]?”

The 16 February press meeting was originally intended for the announcement of Trump’s new Labor Department secretary nominee Alexander Acosta.

In one of the lighter moments from the wild appearance, Mr Trump asked CNN reporter Jim Acosta, if he was related to the department nominee, given their matching last names.

“You’re not related to our new —,” Mr Trump asked the journalist before he quickly interrupted: “I am not, sir. [ laughter ] I do like the sound of Secretary Acosta.”

The coincidence caused enough confusion to warrant a point of information on Twitter signposting that “Journalist Jim Acosta is not related to Trump’s labor secretary”.

Following the humorous introduction, Mr Trump and Mr Acosta would become “familiar foes” during his time in office, in a move reflective of the former president’s persistent distaste for Mr Acosta’s employer.

Mr Biden is set to make his own solo-debut with the Washington press corps on Thursday afternoon. Find out more information about where and when to watch the press conference here.

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