Donald Trump’s freewheeling marathon press conference
Washington – He rarely holds formal news conferences. But when he does, President Donald Trump lets ‘er rip.
For more than an hour and 20 minutes Wednesday, Trump held court with reporters in a sweltering hotel ballroom in New York City, where he’s been attending the annual United Nations General Assembly. Trump was in his element, sparring and joking with reporters as he addressed a host of issues, including the growing list of sexual misconduct allegations against his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and the threat of war with North Korea.
Here are some of the highlights:
On Sexual Assault Allegations Against Kavanaugh
Trump told reporters he’d be watching closely on Thursday as Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, deliver public testimony. He said it was possible he could withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination if he believes her.
“If I thought he was guilty of something like this,” he told reporters, “yeah, sure.” He added: “I could be convinced of anything.”
But Trump, who has repeatedly defended men accused of sexual misconduct, also said his thinking on such allegations had been colored by the numerous accusations of sexual assault that have been leveled against him – falsely, he insists.
“It’s happened to me many times,” he said, citing “four or five women” who “got paid a lot of money” to make those allegations.
In fact, more than a dozen women came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign, claiming they had been assaulted, groped or kissed without consent by Trump.
Trump also continued to describe the allegations Kavanaugh is facing as “a big fat con job” and defended his nominee as “one of the highest quality people that I’ve ever met.” Kavanaugh has also denied all the allegations against him.
On The #metoo Movement
Trump acknowledged: “This is a very big moment for our country” – but not because women feel empowered to speak out.
Instead, Trump said: “This is a very big moment for our country because you have a man who’s very outstanding, but he’s got very strong charges against him, probably charges that nobody’s going to be able to prove.” Trump went on to describe “a very dangerous period in our country” that he said was being “perpetuated by some very evil people – some of them are Democrats.”
And he warned that the country was adopting a new, “dangerous standard” of justice, in which “you are guilty until proven innocent.”
On Firing His Deputy Attorney General
Trump said he’d “certainly prefer not” to fire his Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation. And he said he may delay their highly anticipated Thursday meeting to avoid distracting from the Kavanaugh hearing.
“I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein,” Trump said, adding that Rosenstein had denied reports he’d discussed possibly secretly recording the president and using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Trump also said he may call Rosenstein later Wednesday evening to ask for a “little bit of a delay to the meeting” because he doesn’t “want to do anything that gets in the way of this very important Supreme Court pick.”
On War With North Korea
Trump claimed that President Barack Obama was ready to go to war with North Korea and that millions of people would be dead if he hadn’t been elected.
“If I wasn’t elected, you would have had a war,” he said, adding, “You know how close he was to pressing the trigger for war?”
Ned Price, Obama’s former national security spokesman, disputes that the Obama administration was ever on the verge of war with North Korea.
He said Wednesday night that “the Department of Defense always looks at contingencies” but that the administration believed diplomacy was the only viable option in the Korean Peninsula.
Trump also talked fondly of the inflammatory words he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had exchanged before their summit, saying the two “both smile at now and we laugh at” what he dubbed “rhetorical contests.”
Trump said he rejected a one-on-one meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the UN because he’s annoyed by the country’s trade negotiations.
“His tariffs are too high, he doesn’t seem to want to move and I’ve told him forget about it,” Trump complained, adding: “We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada.”
But Trudeau spokeswoman Eleanore Catenaro said that never happened.
“No meeting was requested,” she said.
On His Bromance With Xi
Trump once again claimed China has tried to meddle in the upcoming midterm elections in retaliation for Trump’s tough trade policies – but declined to offer proof.
“We have evidence. We have evidence. It will come out,” he teased.
Asked why he continues to praise China’s Xi Jinping if the country is trying to undermine American democracy, Trump stressed his strong relationship with his Chinese counterpart and praised the Chinese as “incredible people.”
In fact, he said, he’d be calling Xi on Thursday to check in following the question by a New York Times reporter.
“In honor of you,” he told the reporter, he’d be making the call.
Nobody Was Laughing
Trump insisted he was never ridiculed by leaders on the world stage, dismissing reports that he was laughed at during his address to the U.N. General Assembly as “fake news.”
Trump allowed that he’d heard “a little rustle” as he began reciting U.S. economic gains under his watch, but he insisted: “They weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing with me.”
Trump had appeared briefly flustered by the reaction Tuesday morning. He smiled and said, “I didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.”
As Trump tells it: “People had a good time with me. We were doing it together. We had a good time. They respect what I’ve done.”
I Could Go On All Day
Trump, who has long loved sparring with the media, seemed especially engaged on Wednesday, bashing the “fake news” with one breath and praising reporters with another.
He peppered his questioners with commentary, addressing one reporter he assumed to be Kurdish as “Mr. Kurd.”
“I could be doing this all day long,” Trump remarked, polling the crowd and asking whether he should continue taking questions. “It doesn’t matter to me. A couple more, I don’t care.”
After delivering an answer he seemed especially pleased with, Trump paid tribute to one of his favorite artists and some advice he’d taken to heart.
“I always like to finish with a good one,” he said. “Elton John said when you hit that last tune and it’s good, don’t go back.”