Trump denies holding interests in Russia
On North Korea, says "We'll take care of it, folks."
ISIS is spreading “like cancer,” Iran is “the world’s top sponsor of terrorism,” Russia “is a ruse” and when it comes to North Korea he’ll “take care of it.”
Those were some of US President Donald Trump’s comments from his Thursday news conference.
“I inherited a mess,” he said, in a reference to the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy.
On Russia: “Fake news. It’s all fake news”
What Trump said:
During the 75-minutes, Trump spoke at length about the alleged links between his administration and Russia.
He roundly dismissed reporting on the subject, criticizing the media for peddling “fake news” while saying the “leaks are real.”
Trump told journalists the “Russia scam” was something the media was “building so that you don’t talk about the real subject, which is illegal leaks.”
When asked if he directed former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, he said “No, I didn’t.” But he added he “would have directed him to do it” because calling countries and counterparts “was his job.”
Trump also declared “I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
On the Russian spy ship that was spotted near the coast of Connecticut, Trump said: “Hopefully, I won’t have to do anything, but I’m not going to tell you.”
Analysis from CNN Correspondent Clare Sebastian in Moscow:
As the topic of Russia becomes more and more prominent in the US, the opposite is happening in Russia.
Most Russian TV broadcasts barely covered the news conference, a stark contrast to the wall-to-wall coverage of the inaugural phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin three weeks ago.
As more mixed messages have been coming out of Washington D.C., the official responses and media coverage in Russia have become more muted.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had “more important things” to do than to watch a Trump press conference.
When asked by CNN whether Putin was disillusioned by the Trump administration, Peskov said: “I would like to remind you that over the period of the last few months, we kept saying that we’ve never worn rose-colored glasses or cherished excessive illusions,” adding “we have nothing to be disappointed about”.
On Iran: “We’re not going to stop”
What Trump said:
Trump has been a long-standing critic of the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “one of the worst agreements I’ve ever seen drawn by anybody.”
In the news conference, he again accused Tehran of taking advantage of the previous administration and labeled Iran the “world’s top sponsor of terrorism.”
“We’re not going to stop until that problem is properly solved. And it’s not properly solved now, it’s one of the worst agreements I’ve ever seen drawn by anybody,” he added.
Analysis from CNN Correspondent Fred Pleitgen:
The Iranians who support the deal (moderates around Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif) say it is not up for debate and that the US cannot cancel it unilaterally. They also say that Trump not backing it shows that it is good for Iran. Iran’s Foreign minister says it will abide by the deal but the US has to do the same.
There are many in Iran, however, who don’t like the deal – mostly the religious conservatives and hardliners close to the Revolutionary Guard. They say Iran gave up too much for it, but they also criticize Trump for his rhetoric.
The Iranians hate the label “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism” and say the groups they support (mostly Hamas and Hezbollah) are legitimate political groups that don’t target the US.
It is the US that is aiding terrorism, they argue, by allowing Al Qaeda and ISIS to emerge in Iraq and Syria.
On North Korea: ‘We’ll take care of it folks’
What Trump said:
Trump offered little clarity on his plan to deal with Pyongyang other than to say: “We’ll take care of it folks; we’re going to take care of it all.”
In response to a question about provocations from Russia, and other issues the President has faced this week, Trump suggested that questions about US strategy would not be answered.
“I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea,” he said. “And I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do with Iran. You know why? Because they shouldn’t know. And eventually, you guys are going to get tired of asking that question.”
Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave orders to test a new ballistic missile, which a North Korean official told CNN was not designed to provoke its neighbors but was a “gift” to honor late leader Kim Jong Il.
Writing ahead of Trump’s press conference, Adam Cathcart, lecturer in Chinese history at the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) and the editor of Sino-NK.com, said Trump has yet to make much of an impact in North Korea.
“Trump has made a great deal of noise since arriving in office but, paradoxically, his failure to focus on a North Korea policy has created a small space for progress on what the Obama administration considered to be the greatest threat to US security,” according to Cathcart.
“North Korean state media is at present keeping its powder dry: it has not yet attacked Donald Trump by name or criticized him for anything.”
On ISIS: ‘They’ve spread like cancer’
What Trump said:
During Thursday’s press conference, Trump said that ISIS has “spread like cancer,” and that ISIS was “another mess” he had inherited from Obama’s administration.
He told the media that US Defense Secretary James Mattis was “over there” working on a plan “for the defeat of ISIS.”
Mattis is currently attending the Munich Security Conference with US Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump also added that ISIS “used to be a small group, now it’s in large sections of the world.”
Analysis from CNN’s Tim Lister:
What Trump didn’t mention was that ISIS as a group and a “state” has lost a lot of potency since the middle of 2015 – a reversal of its initial expansion in the Middle East.
The extremist group has lost more than half its territory in Iraq and Syria. Their stronghold of Raqqa is under pressure and they’ve lost half of the key Iraqi city of Mosul. They have lost footholds in Libya and their main sources of revenue have been destroyed.
However, they are trying to refashion themselves as an insurgency, a classic terror group by establishing a presence from the jungles of the Philippines to the deserts of Chad.
They are still encouraging terror attacks in Europe and the US but have far less ability to direct and organize such attacks than in 2015.
Essentially ISIS is not spreading – as in gaining territory – and is instead looking for new opportunities for its brand far from its core holdings.