President Donald Trump took part in an extended question-and-answer session with reporters at his New Jersey golf course Thursday, fielding inquiries on the Russian probe, North Korea, transgender troops and more.
Speaking before and after a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and new White House chief of staff John Kelly, Trump took more than a dozen questions from the gathered press.
Here are some of the top quotes from the President’s back-and-forth with reporters.
1. “Maybe it wasn’t tough enough.” – Trump restated his ultimatum to North Korean leadership to stop threatening the US or “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
2. “We’ll see what happens.” – Trump declined to say whether he would rule out a preemptive military strike against North Korea, saying: “We don’t talk about that. We never do. I don’t talk about it.”
3. “The people of this country should be very comfortable.” – Trump sought to assuage concerns about the ongoing standoff with North Korea, telling reporters that the American people and America’s allies are safe.
4. “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.” – Trump’s response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order that the US cut its diplomatic staff by 755 in Russia.
5. “You know, they do that very seldom, so I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it.” – Trump described his reaction to the news that the FBI had raided the home of his one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort as part of the ongoing Russian probe.
6. “I haven’t given it any thought. I’ve been reading about it from you people. You say, ‘Oh, I’m going to dismiss him.’ No, I’m not dismissing anybody.” – Trump said he does not have any current plans to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
7. “I think I’m doing the military a great favor.” – Trump defended his decision to reinstate the US military ban on transgender people. “I have great respect for the community. I think I’ve had great support, or I’ve had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes,” he said. “But the transgender, the military’s working on it now … As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”
8. “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency.” – Trump announced his intention to take up the recommendation of his opioid crisis commission and declare the ongoing epidemic a national emergency, which would offer states and federal agencies more resources and power to combat the crisis. On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price suggested that the designation would be unnecessary.
9. “If he doesn’t get repeal and replace done, and if he doesn’t get taxes done – meaning cuts and reform – and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done – infrastructure – if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question.” – Asked by reporters whether he believes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should resign, Trump said that he would have to wait and see whether McConnell is able to deliver on the top items on his agenda before he would comment. Trump has feuded with the Majority Leader in recent days over his failure to steer a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare through the Senate.
10. “There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages.” – Trump responded to questions about whether his administration has been sending mixed messages in its response to North Korea’s provocations. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered his take on what the President meant by his promise of “fire and fury” for North Korea.
11. “We’re getting close. We’re getting very close.” – Trump said that his administration was getting close to an updated military strategy in Afghanistan. Sen. John McCain released his own strategy for Afghanistan earlier Thursday, saying he was taking the step since the Trump administration had yet to release their own.
12. “It’s fine. It is what it is. It’s fine. He’s working hard on the border.” – Trump described his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions just weeks after publicly slamming him. Trump then moved on to praise his new chief of staff, Kelly, for his work on the border as Secretary of Homeland Security.
13. “He’s our friend. He’s my friend. And he’s a very talented man. I like him and I respect him.” – Trump also reaffirmed his confidence in McMaster, who has recently clashed with the President on key issues.