Trump Breaks From Vacation to Tweet Criticism of Media and Rally His Base – New York Times
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump broke away from his summer vacation on Monday for a barrage of Twitter posts lashing out at the “Fake News” media and insisting that his political base was “getting stronger” despite investigations into possible collusion between Russia and his associates.
Rising early at his golf resort in nearby Bedminster, N.J., where he arrived on Friday for the start of a 17-day escape from Washington, Mr. Trump vented his frustration that he is not getting sufficient credit for his political strength and the accomplishments of his six-month presidency.
“The Trump base is far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling). Look at rallies in Penn, Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia,” he said on Twitter in a string of messages. “The fact is the Fake News Russian collusion story, record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs, Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more have driven the Trump base even closer together. Will never change!”
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He added: “Hard to believe that with 24/7 #Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, NYTIMES & WAPO, the Trump base is getting stronger!”
Mr. Trump traveled to New Jersey while the West Wing undergoes a renovation to upgrade the air conditioning. The furniture has been removed from the Oval Office and most of the staff relocated to an office building next door.
The president, who has not been seen in public since arriving, cited this to argue that he was not really on vacation and noted that he will travel to New York for work during the second half of his getaway. He had earlier insisted that Congress not go on vacation until it passed legislation repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care law, but the bill was defeated in the Senate and lawmakers have now left town.
“Working hard from New Jersey while White House goes through long planned renovation,” he wrote. “Going to New York next week for more meetings.”
His staff later reported that he received his daily intelligence briefing and held an hourlong call with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who updated the president about his trip to Asia and discussed North Korea with him. John F. Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, who spent the weekend in New Jersey with the president, also joined the call.
Mr. Trump’s boasts about his support among his base illustrated his focus on holding his core backers even as polls show that his approval ratings have continued to fall across the board. The latest Quinnipiac University survey earlier this month showed that 33 percent of Americans approved of the job that Mr. Trump is doing, the lowest of his presidency.
His approval remains stronger among Republicans than the general public, although his support has fallen within his own party as well. Seventy-six percent of Republicans approved of Mr. Trump’s performance in the Quinnipiac survey, down from 81 percent in June. White Americans with no college degrees, often considered central to his political support, now disapprove of his performance more than they approve, 50 percent to 43 percent. Just two months ago, it was the opposite: 46 percent approved and 43 percent did not.
In his morning tweets, Mr. Trump went after some of his most consistent targets, including The New York Times and Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.
“The failing @nytimes, which has made every wrong prediction about me including my big election win (apologized), is totally inept!” he wrote. He did not specify any particular article that angered him, although Vice President Pence issued an sharp statement on Sunday rejecting a Times story reporting that he was positioning himself to run for president in 2020 if Mr. Trump did not seek re-election.
The assertion that the newspaper apologized for its coverage last year is not true, but Mr. Trump has continued to say it even after being repeatedly corrected. In a letter to readers after the election, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, and Dean Baquet, the executive editor, wrote that the surprise election result raised a question: “Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?”
They added: “As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.”
Mr. Trump has regularly assailed Mr. Blumenthal when he has seen him on television criticizing him. Mr. Blumenthal appeared on CNN on Monday morning talking about the Russia investigations minutes before the president’s tweets.
“Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!” hewroteon Twitter. “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”
Mr. Blumenthal received at least five deferments from military service during the Vietnam era and then went into the Marine Reserve, where he served in a unit in Washington. But as a politician, he referred to himself as having “served in Vietnam” or “served during the Vietnam era.” The article exposing these false statements in 2010 did not, however, report that he told stories about Vietnam battles or conquests. Mr. Trump received five deferments from the draft: four for college and one for bad feet.
As it happens, the article that Mr. Trump relied on for his attack on Mr. Blumenthal ran in The New York Times.
Mr. Blumenthal responded using Mr. Trump’s own favorite medium. “Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. No one is above the law,” he wrote on Twitter. “This issue isn’t about me – it’s about the Special Counsel’s independence and integrity.”
Follow Peter Baker on Twitter @peterbakernyt
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