Pres­i­dent de­nounces jour­nal­ist as ‘very nasty’ and a ‘loser’ be­fore fly­ing to Eu­rope Trump says he hasn’t spo­ken to new at­tor­ney gen­eral about Mueller in­quiry

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SUZANNE LYNCH Wash­ing­ton Cor­re­spon­dent

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has told re­porters to re­spect the of­fice of the pres­i­dent, and warned that more could be barred from the White House:

US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­newed his at­tack on the me­dia, de­scrib­ing CNN re­porter Jim Acosta as an “un­pro­fes­sional guy” with a “loud voice” and ac­cus­ing an African-Amer­i­can fe­male re­porter of ask­ing a “stupid ques­tion”.

In a lengthy me­dia ex­change be­fore leav­ing Wash­ing­ton for Paris, where he is due to at­tend the armistice cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tions this week­end, Mr Trump also lashed out at African-Amer­i­can re­porter April Ryan, whom he de­nounced as “very nasty” and a “loser”. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s do­ing.”

Speak­ing out­side the White House, he said the of­fice of the pres­i­dent should be treated with “re­spect”, warn­ing more jour­nal­ists could be barred.

He also de­nied that the White House had is­sued a doc­tored im­age to de­fend its de­ci­sion to re­move Mr Acosta’s press ac­cred­i­ta­tion af­ter he en­gaged in a ver­bal al­ter­ca­tion with the pres­i­dent dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s press con­fer­ence.

The im­age dis­trib­uted by White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee Sanders, which orig­i­nated with con­tro­ver­sial web­site In­foWars, was sim­ply a “close-up” and “was not doc­tored”, he said. “They gave a close-up view; that’s not doc­tor­ing” said the pres­i­dent, vis­i­bly ir­ri­tated, as he ac­cused the re­porter who asked the ques­tion of be­ing “dis­hon­est”.

Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Mr Trump also said he did not know Matt Whi­taker, the man he has ap­pointed to re­place Jeff Ses­sions as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral. “I don’t know Matt Whi­taker,” he said, adding: “He’s a highly re­spected man, es­pe­cially by law en­force­ment. I think he’s go­ing to do a great job. He’s there in an act­ing po­si­tion. He’s a very strong per­son, a very strong per­son­al­ity.”

Mr Trump, in fact, met Mr Whi­taker sev­eral times when he was chief of staff to Mr Ses­sions. Mr Whi­taker, a con­ser­va­tive for­mer Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date from Iowa, was ap­pointed as chief of staff to the at­tor­ney gen­eral last year with the en­cour­age­ment of out­go­ing White House coun­sel Don McGahn. Be­fore his ap­point­ment to the de­part­ment of jus­tice he was a fa­mil­iar con­trib­u­tor on US cable tele­vi­sion shows, where he reg­u­larly crit­i­cised the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

His com­ments on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion have prompted calls by Democrats, in­clud­ing House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi, for Mr Whi­taker to re­cuse him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But in­di­ca­tions from the jus­tice de­part­ment are that this is un­likely. In­stead Mr Whi­taker is set to take over re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion from deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein.

Mr Whi­taker’s in­volve­ment with a Florida patent com­pany that was shut down by the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion this year could pose a prob­lem for his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

Mr Trump said he had not talked to Mr Whi­taker about how to han­dle the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said Mr Whi­taker, now the coun­try’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial, had been con­firmed at “the high­est level” as he had been con­firmed by the US Se­nate when he was ap­pointed US at­tor­ney in Iowa. He com­plained that Robert Mueller had not been sub­ject to a Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

The pres­i­dent re­peated his claims that the 18-month-old Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is be­ing led by for­mer FBI di­rec­tor Mr Mueller, is a “phoney hoax”. “I didn’t speak to Rus­sians. The fact is, I was a much bet­ter can­di­date than Hil­lary Clin­ton.”

Race for the White House be­gins in earnest; Richard Ford’s re­flec­tions on Amer­ica: Week­end Re­view

Protesters gather in front of the White House as part of a na­tion­wide ‘Pro­tect Mueller’ cam­paign de­mand­ing that act­ing US at­tor­ney gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker re­cuse him­self from over­see­ing the on­go­ing spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion. (AP Photo/An­drew Harnik)

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