President Donald Trump offered a robust defense of his presidency yesterday, arguing that he has been treated unfairly by the Washington media amid a series of deepening scandals that have engulfed his administration.
In a commencement ceremony at the Coast Guard Academy, Trump said "no politician in history . . . has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can't let them get you down, can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams."
Trump did not directly address news reports this week that he revealed highly classified information to Russian government officials and that he had asked then-FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia. But the president was clearly eager to address the controversies, using the second half of his commencement address to express his frustration in rhetoric just loosely cloaked as "advice" for the new cadets.
"Over the course of your life, you'll find things are not always fair," he said. "Things happen to you that you do not deserve and are not always warranted, but you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. Never, ever give up. Things will work out just fine."
In an aside, he added: "I guess that's why we won." Then he returned to his remarks to add: "Adversity makes you stronger. Don't give in, don't back down, and never stop doing what you know is right. Nothing worth doing ever, ever came easy."
Escaping Washington for the day trip, Trump appeared buoyed as he drew hearty applause throughout his remarks from the crowd of family and friends of the cadets attending the outdoor ceremony on a brilliantly sunny day at the Coast Guard stadium.
He defended his record, saying he had "accomplished a tremendous amount in very short time as president." He listed as accomplishments the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, new funding for the military, and a decrease in border crossings by illegal immigrants. He also touted the health-care legislation that passed the House and promised to tackle tax reform.
"The people understand what I'm doing and that's the most important thing," Trump said. "I did not get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I was elected to serve the forgotten men and women in our country and that's what I'm doing."
"I will never stop fighting for the American people," Trump said.
Wrapping up his remarks, the embattled president appeared to end on a note of frustration. "Enjoy your life," he told the crowd.
He received a standing ovation when he finished speaking.
Trump's brief jaunt outside Washington was perhaps a welcome respite.
The president arrived at Joint Base Andrews with a clutch of aides, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, for the short flight on Air Force One. He boarded quickly, eschewing the customary presidential wave as he ducked into the cabin.
As Trump flew north, in-flight television feeds in the press quarters were tuned to the House Republican leaders holding a news conference on Capitol Hill, which was dominated by questions about Trump's conduct and the political fallout.
"People turn on the TV and they think this is all that's happening, all we're doing," Speaker Paul Ryan said. "That's just not the case."
Reporters could not see clearly to the front of the plane, where the staff was seated, but an open door provided glimpses of a screen mounted on a wall. The TV, which had previously been showing ESPN, had been switched to Fox News.