President Trump emerged undaunted from the midterm elections, warning the new Democratic House majority to work with him or else and escalating his war with the liberal news media.
Facing a divided government and the threat of House committee investigations, Mr. Trump promised to pursue bipartisan cooperation but put the onus on Democrats to meet him halfway.
“Now is the time for members of both parties to come together, put partisanship aside and keep the American economic miracle going strong,” he said as he opened a freewheeling press conference at the White House.
The exchanges quickly turned combative as the president clashed with reporters who refused to take turns asking questions, admonished one journalist for being “rude” and batted away what he called insults. The White House revoked the press credentials of one of those reporters later Wednesday evening.
Throughout the 90-minute free-for-all in the East Room, Mr. Trump refused to take blame for the House Republicans’ loss of at least 27 seats that put Democrats in the majority. He framed the election results as an acceptable setback in a game in which the deck was stacked against his party from massive spending by liberal donors, record high House Republican retirements and hostile media coverage.
The president instead focused on the Republicans’ expanded Senate majority. The Senate gains were the highest for a president’s party in a first midterm election since at least under President Kennedy in 1962.
Indeed, Mr. Trump’s breakneck campaigning appeared to put Republican candidates over the top in key Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Florida.
The losses in the House closely mirrored the historic average of 24 seats in midterms since World War II. In President Obama’s first midterm elections, Democrats lost 63 House seats and seven Senate seats.
The president said some Republican House lawmakers who lost re-election bids made a mistake by distancing themselves from him on the campaign trail — and he named names.
“You had some that decided to, ‘Let’s stay away.’ They did very poorly,” Mr. Trump said. “Carlos Curbelo [of Florida], Mike Coffman [of Colorado] — too bad, Mike — Mia Love [of Utah].”
He said Ms. Love often called him about helping free hostage Joshua Holt, a Utah resident who was released this year after two years in a Venezuelan prison.
“But Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia,” he said.
The press conference set the tone for the next two years:
⦁ He warned against House committee investigations of the White House, saying he would retaliate with Senate investigations targeting House Democrats.
“All you’re going to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is going to go up and we won’t have done a thing.”
⦁ He vowed to press ahead with the border wall.
“I speak to Democrats all the time. They agree that a wall is necessary. … We’ve started. But we should build it at one time, not in chunks.”
⦁ Mr. Trump doubled down on his endorsement of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker, saying she worked hard and earned the job:
“Hopefully, we can all work together next year to continue delivering for the American people, including on economic growth, infrastructure, trade, lowering the cost of prescription drugs.”
Early in the press conference, Mr. Trump called CNN’s Jim Acosta a “rude, terrible person” after the reporter berated the president and refused to give up the microphone after wrestling it away from a young female White House aide.
“When you report fake news — which CNN does a lot — you are the enemy of the people,” said Mr. Trump. “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them.”
The White House suspended Mr. Acosta’s credentials on Wednesday night, citing his “absolutely unacceptable” conduct, a move that Mr. Acosta learned of when a Secret Service officer confiscated his White House pass as he tried to re-enter a security gate
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president welcomes tough questions, but will “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
Mr. Acosta denied touching the intern, calling that charge by Mrs. Sanders a “lie.” And in an interview with CNN colleague Anderson Cooper afterward, Mr. Acosta accused the White House of trying to intimidate the rest of the press corps.
“I think they’re trying to shut us down … send a message to our colleagues,” he said.
Mr. Trump also shushed April Ryan, a prominent black reporter for American Urban Radio Networks, who stood up without being called on and challenged Mr. Trump to explain his rhetorical tone.
He admonished PBS “NewsHour” reporter Yamiche Alcindor for saying that calling himself a nationalist made people think the Republican Party was allied with white nationalists.
“That’s a racist question,” he said, noting his relatively high approval rating among blacks. “To say that is so insulting to me.”
CNN stood by its reporter and said the president’s attacks on the press had gone too far.
“They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” the network said in a statement.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said it was the press that was out of line.
“Certain members of the press cannot stand the fact that President Trump and Republicans defied expectations in the midterm elections — actually growing our Senate majority,” he said. “The mainstream press are not — in my opinion — ‘enemies of the people’ but rather ‘allies of the Democratic Party’ playing an activist role in support of their agenda.”
Mr. Trump’s comments angered Rep. Ryan A. Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican who is retiring this year.
The president also called out Rep. Barbara Comstock, Virginia Republican, for failing to call for White House help in her losing re-election bid.
“I think she could have won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace,” Mr. Trump said. “Peter Roskam [of Illinois] didn’t want the embrace. Erik Paulsen [of Minnesota] didn’t want the embrace.
“Those are some of the people that, you know, have decided for their own reason not to embrace, whether it’s me or what we stand for,” the president said. “But what we stand for meant a lot to most people.”