It was a presidential news conference like none the American public has seen before — a ranting and, at times, rambling discourse by a commander-in-chief who claimed his objective was to “update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks.”
But, in the end, his 75-minute combative, fact-challenged interaction with the press Thursday merely served to illustrate his own shortcomings, the deep troubles within his own administration — which he called a “fine-tuned machine” — and the reasons why, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, a mere 39 percent of Americans approve of his performance, a record low mark for a new president. The targets of his wrath on Thursday were:
— Senate Democrats, whom he blamed for holding up Cabinet appointments: “The only thing they can do is delay because they screwed things up royally.”
— The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld an injunction against his seven-nation ban on immigrants: “I think that circuit is — that circuit is in chaos and that circuit is frankly in turmoil.”
— The media: “I’ve never seen more dishonest media than frankly, the political media.”
— And, of course, those within his own administration responsible for leaking internal information to the media: “The people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves, really ashamed.”
It was all compelling albeit unsettling theater. But readers should see it for what it is: a distraction
Much of what was said and done in the East Room of the White House appeared to be an attempt to draw attention away from the story that demands continued media scrutiny and public attention — the disturbing revelations about the Trump’s campaign associates ties to Russian intelligence.
The immediate fallout was the dismissal of Michael Flynn as national security adviser after drawing the ire of the president for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration. But Trump defended Flynn on Thursday saying, “He was just doing his job,” later adding that he did not direct him to have these conversations.
If not, the question remains as to whether Flynn was “doing his job” on his own accord or at the direction of someone else. Furthermore, a New York Times report on Wednesday raised yet deeper concerns about Trump ties to Russia. The article claimed that phone records and intercepted calls indicate that members of Trump’s campaign and other associates, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials” in the year leading up to the election.
Although the article makes clear that there is no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in their attempt to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, the connections require investigation. The leaks are not the story. The connections that exist between Trump’s staff and Russian officials — and why — and what role Moscow had in influencing America’s election is the evidence that demands coverage and a verdict. The public deserves nothing less.