16:55 GMT17 May 2021
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    United States President Donald Trump has directed a barrage of criticism at the mainstream media, saying that "false" reporting has complicated his efforts to improve Washington's relationship with Moscow, and added that his team "inherited a mess" from the Obama administration both at home and overseas.

    "I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people – the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia," he said during a press conference held on February 16. "And probably Putin said, … I see what's going on in the United States, I follow it closely; it's got to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he's got with this fake story. Okay? And that's a shame."

    President Trump reaffirmed that he "would love to be able to get along with Russia." He also emphasized that adopting a tough stance on Moscow, something many hardliners in Washington have called for, would not be a sound policy.

    "If I was just brutal on Russia right now, just brutal, people would say, you would say, oh, isn't that wonderful. But I know you well enough. Then you would say, oh, he was too tough, he shouldn't have done that," he observed. "Look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we're not going to make a deal."

    Relations between Moscow and Washington hit a low point after a foreign-sponsored coup in Kiev led to a civil war in Ukraine and Crimea's reunification with Russia. Other major points of contention included the Syrian conflict and NATO's eastward expansion.

    Most recently, the Obama administration blamed Russia for allegedly meddling in the internal affairs of the United States by leaking information ostensibly obtained in high-profile cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 US presidential campaign. Moscow has repeatedly denied these claims, pointing out that Washington has failed to provide any evidence.

    The whole Russian thing is 'a ruse'

    President Trump criticized the media for focusing on the alleged ties of his administration to Russia while turning a blind eye on "the real subject" which to him are illegal leaks, saying that "the whole Russian thing – that's a ruse." He reaffirmed that he has "done nothing for Russia" and "has nothing to do with Russia."

    President Trump also pledged to introduce a criminal penalty for making classified data public.

    "I don't want classified information getting out to the public," he said. "Yes, we're looking at it very, very seriously. I've gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies, and we're – I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. They're put out by people either in agencies. I think you'll see it stopping because now we have our people in."

    President Trump added that this process has not been finalized, saying that some members of his team are still awaiting confirmation. 

    Trump further noted that "it was terrible" that some of his conversations with foreign leaders as well as other classified information were leaked.

    "What's going to happen when I'm dealing on the Middle East?  What's going to happen when I'm dealing with really, really important subjects like North Korea? We've got to stop it. That's why it's a criminal penalty," he said.

    'I Inherited a Mess'

    President Trump lambasted the Obama administration for leaving the United States in a dire state after eight years in power, while also leaving numerous overseas challenges unresolved.

    "To be honest, I inherited a mess – it's a mess – at home and abroad. A mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places – low-pay, low-wages," he explained.

    Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to bring jobs back home, blaming multilateral free trade deals for damaging the US economy. He fulfilled one of his main campaign promises, by withdrawing from the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial deal aimed at deepening economic ties among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the US.

    President Trump also mentioned "mass instability overseas" as something that the Obama administration contributed to, calling the Middle East "a disaster" and pledging to "take care" of North Korea's military nuclear efforts. He also said that Daesh "used to be a small group, and now it's in large sections of the world," that the brutal organization has "spread like cancer."

    Critics have blamed the US-led military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Washington's drone wars and support to insurgents in the Middle East for exacerbating sectarian tensions and fueling violence in the region.

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    classified information, information leaks, US-Russian relations, Syrian crisis, Syrian conflict, US foreign policy, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Middle East, US, Russia
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