- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2017

President Trump beat the news media on the campaign trail, and he’s wagering he can do it again in the White House with bare-knuckle press conferences and raucous rallies that fuel his anti-establishment base — but the act will last only as long as the administration delivers results.

In his first month in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump scored big points with supporters by making good on key campaign promises, including cracking down on illegal immigration and beginning to unravel Obamacare.

He also suffered painful setbacks and self-inflicted stumbles that can’t all be written off as “fake news” — including the court rulings that halted an executive order for extreme vetting of visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries that are also terrorism hotbeds.

At a campaign-style rally Saturday in Florida, Mr. Trump doubled down on accusations that news media are peddling made-up stories in an attempt to unravel his presidency. He also gloated about how wrong they have been about him and the strength of the grass-roots political movement he leads.

“They just don’t want to report the truth, and they’ve been calling us wrong now for two years,” he told a crowd of about 9,000 supporters at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Florida.

“They don’t get it. But they’re starting to get it. I can tell you that,” said the president. “They’ve become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system.”

His ridicule of the news media garnered resounding cheers and applause, just as it did during his unconventional campaign for the White House.

Mr. Trump’s supporters in the heartland have not been swayed by bad press coming out of Washington and New York.

Mr. Trump’s combative relationship with the news media took center stage Thursday at a White House press conference. Sparring with reporters for more than an hour, he accused newspapers and TV networks of purposely ignoring his successes and manufacturing negative stories about him.

“The media’s trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made, and they’re not happy about it,” he said.

On Saturday, the president stood on a makeshift stage inside an open airplane hangar and cited his administration’s achievements, including naming a widely respected federal judge, Neil Gorsuch, for the Supreme Court and ordering the Pentagon to draw up new plans to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group.

Most of Mr. Trump’s early successes have come in a flurry of executive actions that reversed huge pieces of President Obama’s legacy, including:

Halting new Obamacare regulations.

Rolling back most Obama administration immigration policies, unleashing a surge of immigration enforcement and implementing measures to punish “sanctuary cities” that attempt to shield illegal immigrants from deportation.

Laying groundwork for construction of a wall on the border with Mexico.

Launching a deregulation effort by directing all agencies to identify two regulations to eliminate for every regulation proposed.

Imposing a federal hiring freeze, with exceptions for military and public safety workers.

Reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipeline projects.

Formally withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The president told his supporters Saturday that his administration was “running like a fine-tuned machine,” dismissing reports, based on anonymous leaks, that question Mr. Trump’s and his aides’ ties to Russian spies and Moscow’s attempts to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The reports succeeded in bringing down Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, by revealing that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

But Mr. Flynn’s failure was not telling Mr. Pence that the discussion included recent U.S. sanctions against Russia — a burning issue almost solely a result of the news media’s ongoing focus on alleged Trump-Moscow intrigue — not because of illegal or improper conduct for a national security adviser, according to the White House.

On several occasions, however, Mr. Trump has made himself a target for unflattering news coverage by making statements that either confuse the facts or are just plain wrong.

At the rally, Mr. Trump lumped in Sweden when listing European countries experiencing an uptick in terrorist attacks after accepting large numbers of Middle East refugees.

“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers,” he said.

The fact that there had not been a terrorist attack provoked derision and mockery in the press, and the Swedish Embassy in Washington called on the Trump administration for an explanation.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” tweeted former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

A day later, Mr. Trump attempted to correct the record with a Twitter post.

“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” he tweeted.

Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” aired a report Friday about a documentary that claimed Sweden’s generous immigration policy was linked to a rise in crime and that the Swedish government has covered it up.

At the press conference, Mr. Trump made an erroneous claim that his Electoral College victory was the largest since Ronald Reagan’s.

In fact, Mr. Trump’s 304 electoral votes were surpassed by the winners in five of the seven other post-Reagan elections.

However, Mr. Trump has regularly made the claim that his Electoral College victory was the largest for a Republican since Reagan, which is closer to the truth. The last Republican with a larger win was President George H.W. Bush, with 426 electoral votes in 1988.

“Why should Americans trust you?” NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander asked the president at Thursday’s unconventional and combative White House press conference.

“Well, I don’t know, I was given that information,” responded Mr. Trump. “I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”

“You’re the president,” Mr. Alexander said.

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