What a farce.
Donald Trump’s first press conference in almost six months showed that the narcissistic bully is still the media’s master. Like a lounge act, the press conference opened with warm-up talent: Press secretary Sean Spicer attacked the media, particularly CNN and BuzzFeed, for their Monday night stories reporting that the intelligence community warned Trump and President Obama that the Russian government has damaging information on the president-elect. Vice President-elect Mike Pence whipped up the crowd’s excitement, reminding viewers that there are only nine days before Trump can “make America great again.”
Yes, there was a crowd. In addition to more than dozens of reporters, there was an audience consisting of Trump staffers, who cheered for their boss at bizarre times—like when he went after the media, who were the ostensible reason for the odd Wednesday morning pep rally.
Trump appeared rattled by the late-night disclosure of alleged Russian “kompromat” known to intelligence agencies, and again seemed to compare the intelligence community to players in “Nazi Germany.” (My colleague D.D. Guttenplan has a sober take on the revelations here.) Like Guttenplan, I think the allegations of specific contacts between Trump, and his campaign, and Russian government sources are the most important charges; the sexual details are irrelevant. But it must be said that there’s never been a presidential moment as bizarre as Trump insisting he couldn’t have taken part in the sexual activities described in the dossier because “I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.”
While Trump seemed to finally accept claims that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party figures, he also appeared to praise the leaks for getting out the truth. “Hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking. That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing. That’s a horrible thing. Can you imagine that if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate — it would’ve been the biggest story in the history of stories. And they would’ve said immediately, ‘You have to get out of the race.’ Nobody even talked about it. It’s a very terrible thing.” That “nobody even talked about it” is a trademark Trump lie; the supposed revelation dominated the news for days.