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Trump calls a question about nationalism ‘racist’ in post-election news conference

Editor's Note: In response to a question about a visit to the White House tweeted about on Wednesday by a white nationalist, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "He was one of more than twenty-five thousand people who came to the White House Fall Garden Tour, which is open to the public. Free tickets are made available to anyone who wants to attend."

President Trump addressed the midterm election results and much more in a news conference at the White House on Wednesday. Yamiche Alcindor was there and asked the president about whether his rhetoric has emboldened white nationalism. She joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his answer, plus the latest reporting on why Trump asked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's turn now to our own Yamiche Alcindor at the White House.

    Yamiche, we reported earlier on the president's forcing out his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. We have been trying to understand what happened. What do you know from your reporting, before I ask you about the election? What do you know from your reporting about the decision to ask the attorney general to go?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Jeff Sessions' firing was really a long time coming.

    President Trump for months was railing against Jeff Sessions. He really blamed Jeff Sessions why a special counsel had been appointed to look at the president's campaign connections with Russia. The president really looked at Jeff Sessions as someone who was a thorn on his side. He wanted to fire him for a long time.

    The one thing that was really surprising to White House aides that I talked to was the timing of when he announced that he had fired Jeff Sessions. He had that long press conference where he was talking to dozens of reporters, answering all sorts of questions, but he didn't break the news.

    He did say that he could fire anyone he wanted, but White House aides said they expected the president to talk about Jeff Sessions there. And he didn't do it. So he broke the news after.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, let's talk about the election. We just heard the president in that report commenting on some ways that he might be able to work with, Democrats and then other ways where there could be a problem.

    What are you hearing from, learning from your reporting?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president embraced bipartisanship with a big caveat. He said, Democrats, I will work with you if you don't investigate me.

    That's a big deal, because Democrats are already signaling that they want to look at the president's tax returns, that they want to look at whether or not there was any sort of violation, any sort of obstruction of justice when he fired Jeff Sessions.

    So the president is already saying, hey, if you Democrats keep down this — down this road, I'm not going to work with you. But he did say that, on infrastructure, on health care, on trade, and on the environment, that he could maybe see himself working with Democrats and this, of course, newly Democratic controlled House that is coming soon enough.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally, Yamiche, I want to ask you about something.

    You asked the president a question today at the news conference. And I want to — let's listen to just part of that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    On the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. Now people are also saying…

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don't know why you'd say that. That's such a racist question.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There are some people that say that now the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric. What do you make of that?

  • President Donald Trump:

    Oh, I don't believe that. I don't believe that.

    I don't believe it. Just — well, I don't know. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African-Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? I mean, why do I have my highest poll numbers? That's such a racist question.

    Honestly, I mean, I know you have it written down. It's a racist question.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche — Yamiche, tell us what was going on there.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president really — his tense relationship with the media was on full display in a rare way today.

    The president had been talking to other reporters and really railing against them. He called reporters rude, hostile, unfair. Those were reporters working with CNN, NBC, other networks.

    By the time I posed my question, the president had been pacing at the podium just moments before. He was already kind of hyped up and amped up and really frustrated with the media.

    And the president was on the defense, because he doesn't like talking about his rhetoric. He doesn't like that there are some white nationalists who are supporting the president.

    But that question that I posed today was very timely, because just today, Patrick Casey, a leader of Identity Evropa, which is — which the Southern Poverty Law Center says is part of the alt-right and white nationalist movement, tweeted that he was at the White House today.

    So, as the president said that the question was racist, and I — he was literally having white nationalists at the White House.

    I have posed the question to Sarah Sanders, why — why was Patrick Casey here, and what — who was he meeting with? Who invited him? I haven't gotten a response from the White House yet. But that's — that's a really — I think something that people are looking at and are very concerned that there are white nationalists walking around in the White House, as the president says that just asking about them is racist.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, you were doing your job as a reporter.

    And, Yamiche Alcindor, we thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

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