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Trump holds freewheeling impromptu press conference

Trump announces Acosta
Trump announces Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary pick 00:50

President Trump held a news conference Thursday to announce his newest labor secretary pick, less than a day after Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration for the post.

The president also touched on other news of the day, including the U.S. relationship with Russia, his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, Michael Flynn’s resignation from the National Security Adviser post, the rollout of his immigration executive order and the court’s refusal to reinstate the travel ban, the inner workings of his White House, and his policies on inner cities. 

Below is our live blog from the news conference: 

2:10 p.m. ET Asked about his “inner city” agenda, President Trump said he would “love to meet with the black caucus - the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).” 

Full video: President Trump's impromptu press conference 01:17:05

The president then told the journalist, who is black, to set up the meeting between the CBC and his office

“Are they friends of yours?” he asked. 

2:00 p.m. ET President Trump defends the “perfect” rollout of his travel ban, which bars refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. 

“We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban,” he said. “We had a court that’s been overturned… we rehad a bad decision.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Andrew Harnik, AP

The president previewed a new executive order “next week.”

“We can tailor the order to that decision. We’re tailoring it now to that decision,” he said.

Asked by another reporter if he could confirm if anyone on his campaign was in contact with Russia during the campaign, the president said: “Nobody that I know of.”

Later, Mr. Trump shushed another reporter: “Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!”

1:50 p.m. ET The president weighs in on the Russian spy ship off the U.S. coast near Connecticut

“The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water,” he said. 

“What am I going to do with this ship?” he questioned. “I’m not going to tell you.”

“Not good,” he added. “If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along... we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they.” 

“Nuclear holocaust would be like no other,” he said. 

Discussing the Affordable Care Act and Republican plans to repeal and replace it, the president announced that “we should be submitting the initial plan in March, early March.”

1:45 p.m. ET  President Trump defends the answers he’s given in his press conference. 

“I’m not ranting and raving,” he said.

Of his White House workings, the president said, “there’s zero chaos. This is a fine-tuned machine.”

1:35 p.m. ET When Mr. Trump is asked if he can definitively say his campaign had no contact with Russia, the president says, “I had nothing to do with it.”

Reporter asks Trump about Electoral College margin 00:50

When asked whether he directed Flynn to talk sanctions with the Russian ambassador, he said, “No, I didn’t.” 

But, he added: “I would have directed him to do it.”

1:30 p.m. ET The president gets real-time fact-checked by NBC News’ Peter Alexander for his claim that he had the highest margin of victory in the Electoral College since President Ronald Reagan

The president, who earned just 306 electoral votes, neglected to mention that George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all had larger margins of victory.

When Alexander brought up the facts in a question, Mr. Trump seemed to back down from his original claim, saying “I was given that information.”

“I’ve seen that information around,” he said. “It was a very substantial victory.”

1:22 p.m. ET The president defends Michael Flynn, his resigned National Security Adviser, by attacking the press and members of the intelligence community for the “illegal process” of leaking information.

Trump's tense relationship with the U.S. intelligence community 09:05

“Mike Flynn is a fine person,” he said. “He was just doing his job...I don’t think he did anything wrong.” 

“He didn’t tell the vice president of the United States the facts and then he didn’t remember,” Trump said of Flynn, saying that was why he asked for Flynn’s resignation.

The real problem, Mr. Trump charged, was that “classified information that was given illegally.”

1:15 p.m. ET President Trump continues to go after the federal courts, including the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided not to reinstate the president’s travel ban. 

“That circuit is in chaos,” the preisdent said. “That circuit, frankly, is in turmoil.”

The president then wrongly claimed that the court was the most overturned in the country when it comes to the Supreme Court’s review of their decisions. According to a Politifact check on that claim, the 9th Circuit’s reversal rate is lower than that of the 6th Circuit -- which serves Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee -- and the 11th Circuit.

1:10 p.m. ET The president discusses disheartening media reports of “chaos” within his White House. 

“It is the exact opposite,” Mr. Trump asserted. “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.” 

The president then went on to say that his Cabinet nominations have not been 

He talked about his upcoming Saturday rally in Florida, to be held at the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport. 

“I just heard that the crowds are massive,” the preside said of the event, which has not happened yet. 

1:05 p.m. ET The president addresses national security concerns and the problem of terrorist organizations abroad. 

“ISIS has spread like cancer - another mess I inherited,” he said. “We have imposed new sanctions on the nation of Iran… they’re the world’s top sponsor of terrorism.”

Mr. Trump said he has “ordered plans to begin” of the “massive rebuilding” of the U.S. military. 

“Our country will never have had a military like the military we’re about to build and rebuild,” he said. 

12:59 p.m. ET President Trump lambasts news outlets, continuing his campaign against the press. 

“Much of the media in Washington, D.C...speaks not for the people but for the special interests,” he said. “The press has become so dishonest... we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people.” 

“The press is honestly out of control,” he added. “The media is trying to attack our administration because... we are following through on pledges we made”

The president then gave an update on how he viewed the country. 

“To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess,” he said. “Jobs are pouring out of the country.”

12:56 p.m. ET President Trump announces Alexander Acosta for labor secretary. 

“He’ll be a tremendous secretary of labor,” the president said, touting that Acosta has been “confirmed by the Senate three times.” 

Acosta’s experience in government trumps that of the president’s previous pick, Andrew Puzder. Acosta has served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush and was previously a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Most recently, Acosta was the dean of the Florida International University College of Law. Acosta has also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

He went on to praise Mick Mulvaney, who was recently confirmed by the Senate as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Mr. Trump said the confirmation came “days late.” 

12:46 p.m. ET President Trump is expected to announce Alexander Acosta for labor secretary, CBS News reports. 

Mr. Trump met with Acosta on Wednesday, CBS’ Margaret Brennan reports. 

11:30 a.m. ET At a meeting with members of Congress, President Trump announced that he would hold a noon press conference to announce his pick for secretary of labor, following the withdrawal of his first choice, Andrew Puzder, from the nomination Wednesday. 

Andrew Puzder withdraws as labor secretary nominee 02:26

The fast food executive, who faced intense scrutiny of his business record and personal life during the confirmation process, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that he was pulling out of consideration “after careful consideration and discussions with my family.” 

A source told CBS News’ Major Garrett ahead of Puzder’s withdrawal, “I think he’s very tired of the abuse.”

At the “listening session” held with members of Congress, the president also responded to a question about intelligence community leaks as reporters were escorted from the room. 

“We’re gonna find the leakers. We’re gonna find the leakers,” he said, doubling down on his Twitter promises earlier in the day. “They’re gonna pay a big price for leaking.” 

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