WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will issue a new executive order on immigration by next week, and Justice Department lawyers asked a federal appeals court to hold off on taking action in the legal battle over his initial travel ban until that order is in place.
In a news conference at the White House, Trump said the new order would “comprehensively protect our country,” and he hinted that it might contain new vetting measures for travelers. Trump’s first order temporarily barred refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., ostensibly so officials could review and tighten screening procedures.
President Trump held the news conference in the East Room of the White House Thursday, where he announced Alexander Acosta as his choice for Labor Secretary, and attacked the media and what he called “a mess” that he inherited.
“He has had a tremendous career,” Trump said, noting he’s been through Senate confirmation three times for past positions.
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FOX reports that the president spoke and took questions for more than an hour and 15 minutes, even joking with some reporters toward the end and saying he was having fun. In a bid to preempt negative coverage of his remarks, Trump insisted he was not “ranting and raving.” But he lamented that the “tone” of coverage of his administration is one of “such hatred.”
“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” he said.
Then Trump pivoted to tout his administration’s record so far and to blast the media for allegedly underplaying progress made.
“The press honestly is out of control,” Trump said, vowing to take his message “straight to the people.”
Amid a court fight over his controversial immigration executive order, which he maintained is “lawful,” Trump said he would announce a “new and very comprehensive order to protect our people.”
The president called the country “drug-infested” and vowed to put a stop to it.
“We’re becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We’re not going to let it happen any longer,” he said.
Trump said the administration is making a nationwide effort to go after criminal illegal immigrants, gang members and drug dealers.
“Our administration is working night and day to keep you safe, including reporters,” said Trump.
The press conference was held days after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser over a controversy regarding his past contacts with Russia’s ambassador. Those contacts emerged in news reports. Fast food chain CEO Andrew Puzder also withdrew from consideration for labor secretary on Wednesday amid deepening scrutiny of his personal and professional past.
Trump on Thursday personally denied having any contact or connections with Russia, saying: “I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no deals there. I don’t know anything.”
And he dismissed recent reports that campaign aides had been in contact with Russian officials before his election. Trump called the reports a “ruse” and said he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Trump added, “Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.”
In a free-wheeling event that, before Trump, would have been unprecedented in a modern presidential news conference, the president by turns teased and lambasted members of the press corps.
Toward the end of the press conference, Trump summed up his complaints by suggesting he was being blamed for problems that have existed for years: “I didn’t come along and divide this country. This country was seriously divided before I got here.”
He also blasted Senate Democrats for holding up his Cabinet nominees.
His latest pick for Labor Department might have an easier time. If confirmed, Acosta would be Trump’s first Latino Cabinet member. According to top GOP sources, Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other Hispanic leaders are enthused about the pick.
Acosta currently is dean of Florida International University College of Law. He previously served as the first Hispanic assistant attorney general and as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, as well as on the National Labor Relations Board.
According to top GOP sources and a source close to Sen. Marco Rubio, Rubio and other Hispanic leaders, GOP and otherwise, are very enthused about Acosta as the new Labor Pick.
Rubio is about to send out a very positive statement out as soon as he is announced.
As many have noted, if confirmed, this would be Trump’s first Latino member in his cabinet. There has been an Hispanic cabinet member in each presidential cabinet since Reagan’s 2nd term.
One GOP strategist also says it would be hard to see Dems voting against a nominee with his admirable background, who is also Hispanic.
In the wake of the Flynn reports and other damaging stories, Trump also has vowed to root out those leaking sensitive information.
“We’re going to find the leakers. … They’re going to pay a big price for leaking,” Trump said at a meeting ahead of the press conference.