Trump Lashes Out During Combative Press Conference
Updated 3:10 p.m. ET
In an extraordinarily combative news conference Wednesday after voters delivered him a rebuke by giving control of the House to Democrats, President Trump went after Republicans, Democrats and the media.
He mocked Republican candidates who distanced themselves from him, chided a reporter for asking a "racist question" and walked away from the lectern at one point, as an aide tried to wrest a microphone out of a reporter's hands.
Trump said that if House Democrats try to use their majority to issue subpoenas, it would be a "warlike posture."
He said that he could work with Democrats on issues such as infrastructure and health care, but that if they conduct investigations into his administration, "then we're going to do the same thing, then government comes to a halt and I blame them."
Trump suggested he will use the Senate to conduct his investigations.
(Can't see the video? Click here)
The president name-checked several GOP candidates who lost Tuesday. He said that Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, "gave me no love, and she lost. Too bad, sorry about that Mia." He said Barbara Comstock, who lost her suburban Virginia district, "didn't want to have any embrace."
Trump said Tuesday's results were "very close to a complete victory," despite Republicans losing control of the House. The GOP did add to its majority in the Senate.
Earlier Wednesday, he praised House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi while warning Democrats against investigating his administration.
Of Pelosi, who with her party capturing the majority of seats Tuesday stands to become the next speaker of the House, Trump tweeted that she "deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by Democrats," that "she has earned this great honor," and even suggested some Republicans could vote for her, if Democrats "give her a hard time."
At his news conference, Trump said, "There was nothing sarcastic" about his praise, saying she had "fought long and hard."
Some Democrats said during their campaigns that they would not back Pelosi, but it's not clear yet whether there are any Democrats willing to challenge her for the post. And it seems highly unlikely that any Republican will vote for the woman their party has demonized in thousands of campaign ads.
Trump's show of support for Pelosi is not entirely out of character. Both are deal-makers. In 2007, Trump praised her as "the best," when she was first sworn in as speaker. He has yet to come up with a derogatory nickname for her, as he has with many of his other Democratic foes, although that could certainly change. For her part, Pelosi has said that without bipartisan support, Democrats are unlikely to pursue impeachment charges against the president, although that too could change.
Trump said that he was considering changes to his administration in the aftermath of the election, including to his Cabinet.
Shortly after his news conference ended, Trump tweeted that he had accepted the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who will be replaced by Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker.
Trump singled out Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for praise and reiterated that he was reviewing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's job, following numerous reports of ethical violations.
Trump again denounced special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between Trump's 2016 campaign and the Russian government, claiming he could have shut it down. Trump said he "could fire everybody right now, but I don't want to stop it, because politically I don't like stopping it." Trump called the investigation "a disgrace," saying it "should never have been started, because there is no crime."
He was also asked about comments from some Democrats, who are now in the majority, that they will seek his income tax returns. Unlike previous presidents, Trump has refused to make public, Trump repeated prior explanations that they were under audit and that his lawyers have told him not to but said he would "certainly have an open mind" about releasing them when the IRS audit ends.
Trump has frequently been combative with reporters and painted the news media as "enemies of the people," but Wednesday's press conference raised the level of hostility. He called CNN's Jim Acosta, with whom he has often sparred, "a rude, terrible person." And when PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked whether he thought his rhetoric, including use of the term "nationalist" emboldened white nationalists, he called it "such a racist question."
"I love our country," he said, "you have nationalists, you have globalists," adding, "I also love the world."
He called himself "a great moral leader" and, answering another question, said he has never used racist remarks.
In another tweet on Wednesday morning, Trump issued a threat to Democrats, saying that if they "think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we likewise will be forced to consider investigating them for all the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level." He added, "Two can play that game!"
Democrats have promised to hold oversight hearings on the Trump administration when they take control in January. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is set to become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Wednesday that he intends to:
"shine a light on waste, fraud, and abuse in the Trump Administration. I want to probe senior Administration officials across the government who have abused their positions of power and wasted taxpayer money, as well as President Trump's decisions to act in his own financial self-interest rather than the best interests of the American people."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also issued a warning for Democrats on Wednesday morning. They must think carefully about whether to proceed with a "presidential harassment" strategy that exploits their new majority in the House to afflict Trump, he said.
Trump also took credit for Tuesday's results in another tweet, saying, "To any of the pundits or talking heads that do not give us proper credit for this great Midterm Election just remember two words-FAKE NEWS!"
But while some of the red state Senate candidates whom Trump campaigned for did win, the results in the many suburban congressional seats previously held by Republicans now in Democratic hands show voters sent a decidedly mixed signal.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.