President Trump on Wednesday grew testy with a reporter who pressed him about what he was seeking from Ukraine in relation to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, demanding that the reporter ask a question to Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
“Listen, are you ready? We have the president of Finland, ask him a question,” Trump shot back to Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason. “Did you hear me? Ask him a question.”
The exchange came toward the end of a combative press conference that was unusually heated even by Trump standards. It seemed to exemplify the growing anger the president has over the impeachment effort in the House against him.
Trump held the press conference hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) appeared before reporters and put additional pressure on the White house.
Trump engages in contentious back and forth with @JeffMason1 after he dodges Ukraine question:
Trump: We have the president of Finland, ask him a question.
Mason: I have one for him, I just wanted to follow up on the one I asked you—
Trump: Did you hear me? Ask him a question! pic.twitter.com/Co64SmxOmk
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 2, 2019
Trump’s fight with the longtime Reuters correspondent came after Mason asked what he wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do about former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden when he raised them during a July 25 call.
Trump did not directly answer, instead pointing to his desire to see other countries contribute more to Ukrainian aid and blasting the Bidens as “stone cold crooked.”
“The question, sir, was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter,” Mason said after Trump had finished.
Trump told Mason, who has a reputation as a generally mild-mannered correspondent and was recently president of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), not to be “rude” in a scolding tone.
“No sir, I don’t want to be rude. I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question I asked you,” Mason replied as Niinistö could be seen chuckling over the exchange.
“I’ve answered everything. It’s a whole hoax. And you know who’s playing into it? People like you,” Trump rejoined, calling the media “corrupt” and “fake.”
Eventually, Mason dropped the issue and asked a question to the Finnish leader, inquiring about his response to a new World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that allows the U.S. to impose tariffs on European goods.
“That was a big win for the United States, right?” Trump said before the Finnish leader could reply. “You never had wins with other presidents, did you? But we’re having a lot of wins at the WTO.”
“This was a case that started, I think, 10 or 15 years ago,” Mason said.
“Excuse me, your wins are now,” Trump interjected, saying the WTO wants to keep him happy.
Details of Trump’s call with Zelensky emerged last week. On the call, he asks Zelensky to “look into” Biden and get in touch with his personal lawyer and the attorney general. The call has been a foundation for Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Trump capped the press conference by decrying the media as “corrupt” and accusing them of holding the country back.
“The United States is a great democracy,” Trump said. “And I’m airing what I’m airing because we are in fact a democracy. And if the press were straight and honest and forthright and tough, we would be a far greater nation.”
“We are, Mr. President,” CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, a frequent antagonist of the president’s, chimed in.
“We would be far greater when we don’t have the CNNs of the world who are corrupt people,” Trump concluded before walking off the stage.
The president routinely decries the coverage he dislikes as “fake news” and has labeled certain outlets the “enemy of the people.”
However, Trump has grown increasingly hostile in recent days as the impeachment inquiry that threatens his presidency ramps up, accusing a congressman of “treason” and sharing a quote that suggested a civil war could break out if he were removed from office.
Trump earlier Wednesday lashed the media over reporting that he wanted a moat constructed near the U.S.-Mexico border. Throughout the exchange, he blasted The Washington Post over its reporting, even though the details came from a forthcoming book from two New York Times reporters.
Trump did offer rare praise for the Times during Wednesday’s news conference, particularly in response to a story saying that Schiff had early knowledge of the outlines of a whistleblower complaint about the Zelensky call.
“I hate to say it, The New York Times, I can’t believe they wrote it. Maybe they’re getting better,” he told Fox News reporter John Roberts. Trump claimed without evidence the report showed that Schiff helped write the whistleblower complaint and called it a “scandal.”
Mark Zaid, one of the attorneys who represents the whistleblower, subsequently told The Hill that Schiff did not help the whistleblower write the complaint.