Jim Acosta vs Donald Trump: US President bans CNN’s chief White House correspondent after press conference boils over
The White House has suspended the press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta after he and President Donald Trump had a heated confrontation during a news conference.
- Mr Trump said Republicans who distanced themselves from him performed “very poorly”
- He argued with a CNN reporter, who he said was a “rude, terrible person”
- The US leader warned Democrats against launching investigations into him
They began sparring after Acosta asked Mr Trump about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern US border. When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Mr Trump said, “That’s enough” and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” calling it “absolutely unacceptable.”
The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.
Acosta tweeted that Ms Sanders’ statement that he put his hands on the aide was “a lie.”
Journalists assigned to cover the White House apply for passes that allow them daily access to press areas in the West Wing. White House staff decide whether journalists are eligible, though the Secret Service determines whether their applications are approved.
During the marathon 90-minute press conference, Acosta pushed Mr Trump on whether his campaign rhetoric on migrants from central America was divisive.
He also asked a question about developments in a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
Kaylee Winnett twitter: “Here it’s in slow motion so even you can understand that @Acosta NEVER laid a hand on that young woman. Enough, Sarah.”
Mr Trump aggressively pushed back.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them,” he said.
“You are a rude, terrible person.”
Donald Trump points at Jim Acosta as a female aide tries to intervene. (Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)
‘That’s such a racist question’
Separate to the dispute with Acosta, Mr Trump said he was insulted by a question from PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor, who asked him about white nationalists emboldened by the president’s decision to label himself a “nationalist”.
“That’s such a racist question,” said Mr Trump, who has made accusations of unfair coverage from the media a staple on the campaign trail.
The day after his party lost its lock on the US Congress, Mr Trump entered the room ready for political combat, name-checking Republicans who he blamed for losing their seats and lashing out at reporters who challenged his assertions.
Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives to Democrats, but Mr Trump shrugged that off, casting Tuesday’s congressional election results as “very close to complete victory” for Republicans and saying he could negotiate easier on some issues with Democrats, anyway. Republicans kept their Senate majority.
Mr Trump briefly sought to strike a statesmanlike tone in his first public remarks after the loss, praising House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for her hard work and envisioning “a beautiful, bipartisan type of situation” on infrastructure investments and health care.
But his news conference, which stretched close to 90 minutes, quickly turned raucous.
Trump hits out at ‘grandstanding’ Republicans
Even as Mr Trump mused about working with Democrats, he was quick to promise a “warlike posture” if the Democratic-controlled House opened investigations into his administration.
“They can play that game, but we can play it better,” he said.
Mr Trump said the Democrats had “nothing, zero” on him.
Of the special counsel’s Russia investigation that has shadowed his administration for more than 18 months, Mr Trump said, “I could end it right now” but “I let it go on”.
Mr Trump took credit for his Republican Party’s gains in the Senate, casting those results in historic terms. He said he “stopped the blue wave”, noting nine of 11 candidates who he stumped for in the final week of the race won.
But he expressed frustration that 43 House Republicans retired rather than seek re-election, saying that hurt his party.
He took at a jab at “grandstanding” congressmen from his own party whom he said would have made it difficult to get legislation through the House, had Republicans eked out a narrow win in the chamber.
Mr Trump took the rare step of mocking Republican candidates who kept their distance from him during the campaign because of concerns that his divisive messages on immigration would turn off voters — but lost anyway.
He singled out Peter Roskam of Illinois, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, John Faso of New York, and New Jersey Senate candidate Bob Hugin.
“Carlos Curbelo, Mike Coffman — too bad, Mike,” he said, referring to losing Republican congressmen in Florida and Colorado contests.
He scorned Utah’s Mia Love and Virginia’s Barbara Comstock. “Mia Love gave me no love,” he said.
“And Barbara Comstock was another one. I mean, I think she could have won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace.”
The President said his party enjoyed “tremendous success” despite “a very dramatic fundraising disadvantage [and] very hostile media coverage, to put it mildly”.
During the press conference he also asked Vice-President Mike Pence to be his running mate in the 2020 presidential race.