'I'm not ranting and raving': 7 takeaways from Donald Trump's 77-minute solo press conference

US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference on Feb 16, 2017, at the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference on Feb 16, 2017, at the White House in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

US President Donald Trump put up a defence of his first month in office in a rowdy, free-for-all news conference hastily staged in the East Room of the White House on Thursday (Feb 16).

The extraordinary news conference which lasted for an hour and 17 minutes came in the midst of a turbulent week , and just days before he completes four weeks in office.

Mr Trump attempted to deflect attention from news coverage about Russian intelligence, the resignation of his national security adviser, the withdrawal of his labour secretary nominee and deepening questions about his ability to govern.

Here's a look at what Mr Trump said:

1 On reports about a chaotic first month

"This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine."

"To be honest, I inherited a mess," Mr Trump said, at a hastily organised White House event ostensibly to announce a new nominee for labour secretary. "It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country."

A fact check by The New York Times showed that by most definitions, the economy is not a mess, nor is it in recession. The unemployment rate in January was 4.8 per cent, compared with 7.8 per cent in January 2009, when Barack Obama took office. Last month, the economy added 227,000 jobs, even though the unemployment rate is already low. The number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits continues to hit lows not seen in decades. 

"The press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control," Mr Trump added.

"I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos - chaos," he said. "Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved."

2 On the fate of the travel ban - I

"We had a very smooth roll-out of the travel ban. But we had a bad court."

Mr Trump insisted that the enactment of a temporary ban on refugees and all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries was "perfect", despite widespread confusion and subsequent court rulings blocking it.

When a BBC reporter asked if he would accept the roll-out of the travel ban as a good example of the administration's "smooth running of government" and whether there were any mistakes, Mr Trump cut off the reporter telling him to "Wait, wait, wait".

He went on to say it was a "very smooth roll-out" and instead blamed the courts and Delta Air Lines for having "massive computer problems" when the travel ban was rolled out.

Mr Trump's Jan 27 order had suspended the arrival of all refugees for a minimum of 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and barred citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. A court challenge brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota blocked implementation.

3 On the fate of the travel ban - II

"We will be issuing a new and very comprehensive order to protect our people."

Mr Trump said he would be issuing an order next week aimed at keeping the American people safe, as his temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries remains kept on hold by a federal court.

"We will be issuing a new and very comprehensive order to protect our people," he said.

4 On Michael Flynn's resignation

"I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right."

Mr Trump said he asked for the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because he was not happy with the way he had communicated information to Vice-President Mike Pence.

"I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right" in talking to Russian officials, Mr Trump said. "The thing is, he didn't tell our Vice-President properly and then he said he didn't remember."

Mr Trump added that he has no ties to Russia saying: "I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don't have any deals in Russia."

5 On US-Russia ties

"Fake reporting makes it harder for deal with Russia."

Mr Trump said it would be a "positive thing" to mend US-Russia relations but said "fake reporting" by the "dishonest media" was making it harder to make a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"If we could get along with Russia, that's a positive thing," he said.

"The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water," he said referring to news reports that have noted the presence of a Russian naval ship in international waters off the east coast of the United States. He also said he didn't think Mr Putin was testing him.

Mr Trump's defence secretary on Thursday said he did not see possible military collaboration with Russia now, in a blow to Moscow's hopes to mend ties with Washington after Mr Trump's election.

The remarks are perhaps the strongest indication yet from the administration that prospects for any significant cooperation between the US and Russian militaries against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is unlikely anytime soon.

They came despite repeated suggestions by Mr Trump during his election campaign of the possibility of joint action against ISIS militants.

6 On the uptick in anti-Semitism in the country

"I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life."

Mr Trump said he was insulted by a reporter's question on the rise of anti-semitism during the news conference.

"Number 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number 2, racism - the least racist person," he said.

In January, Jewish community centres around the US and one in Canada received waves of bomb threats.

7 On how the media would cover the news conference

"I'm not raving and ranting."

Mr Trump took on an adversarial tone with the media, at times cutting off reporters, telling them to sit down and accusing some reporters of being liars and asking bad or unfair questions.

"Tomorrow, they will say, 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press'," Mr Trump said. "I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people. But - but I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it.

"That's how I won. I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by people listening to you people. That's for sure. But I'm having a good time."

SOURCES: Reuters, NYTimes, AFP, Washington Post