After largely avoiding the media since a solo press conference in mid-February, President Donald Trump held two extended press availabilities on Thursday at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
He took more than 30 total questions between the two events. And man alive, did he talk – about everything from North Korea to Mitch McConnell to leaks to Russia.
Below, I picked out the 39 most remarkable quotes from Trump. They’re in no order other than the way I heard them.
1. “The people who were questioning that statement, ‘was it too tough,’ maybe it wasn’t tough enough. They have been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years. It us about time someone stuck up for the people of other country (sic). If anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough and we are backed by 100% by our military, we are backed by everybody and we are backed by many other leaders.”
So, when Trump said Tuesday that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, …they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the problem wasn’t that he went too far, it was that he didn’t go far enough. Aha! And yes, this is a classic example of Trump leaning into criticism and refusing to ever even consider apologizing or pulling back from something he said off-the-cuff.
2. “For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace. And frankly, it shouldn’t have happened. That I can tell you – it shouldn’t have happened.”
Trump is talking here about the one-vote failure of the Senate Republican attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. What’s interesting is that, by all accounts, Trump was at best a neutral force in the attempts to bring 50 GOP senators on board – and he may have been a negative one. His public threat to Republican Sen. Dean Heller and his attempts at persuading GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) all seem to have backfired, making passage of not only health care but any other major legislation that much more difficult.
3. “Well, I’ll tell you what, 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.”
The president of the United States floating the possibility of the Senate majority leader (of his party) stepping down. No words.
4. “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency.”
Yes, Trump declared a national emergency on the spot. And, yes, that decision did seem to conflict with what his administration had said a few days earlier.
5. “There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages.”
Trump on North Korea – where there appear to be some mixed messages.
6. “The people of this country should be very comfortable, and I will tell you this: If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about (attacking) anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous. I’ll tell you what.”
This is, um, not terribly reassuring.
7. “I have great respect for China and Russia, what they did on sanctions. I believe that will have an effect. I don’t think it will have the kind of effect, even though I was the one – we were the ones that got it.”
Trump is trying to claim credit here for the 15-0 UN Security Council vote on tightening sanctions against North Korea while also, seemingly, getting on-record that he doesn’t think they will work.
8. “But, if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade. So we will do – I think it’s – I – the people of our country are safe. Our allies are safe.”
Um, OK. So, China should help more on North Korea and then we will do something with them on trade. Also, our allies are safe.
9. “We are having a meeting today. We (inaudible) a much larger group than this. This is the finals.”
“The finals.” Everything a competition, everything a reality show.
10. “But that has been a place – 17 years, our longest wars, I read in one of your columns.”
Trump is talking about Afghanistan here. But it’s worth noting the “I read in one of your columns” reference – proving, for the billionth time, that he consumes more media than any previous president.
11. “He’s our friend. He’s my friend. And he’s a very talented man. I like him and I respect him.”
So, would you say national security adviser H.R. McMaster is a friend of mine or a friend of ours?
12. “I think I have great support, or have had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes.”
Trump is saying he got a “lot of votes” from the transgender community. Which, in case you were wondering, is not quantifiable in any way.
13. “No, I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.”
This may be the oddest moment of the entire day. Trump is saying here that he appreciates Russian President Vladimir Putin expelling hundreds of US diplomats from the country. It would seem Trump is a) unaware that Putin did this as a penalty to the United States and b) these diplomats are still on the payroll.
14. “I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever.”
Trump’s take on the pre-dawn raid of one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s Virginia home by the FBI. It did send a strong signal. Or whatever.
15. “But to do that early in the morning, whether or not it was appropriate, you’d have to ask them.”
In truth, no one likes to get up before dawn. Especially when the people doing the waking up are FBI agents seizing things they believe are connected to a special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in a presidential election.
16. “To wake him up, perhaps his family was there – I think that’s pretty tough stuff.”
The real crime here is waking Manafort up. He could have been in REM sleep for all we know!
17. “It’s fine. It is what it is. It’s fine.”
Two things here: 1) “it is what it is” is the worst phrase ever and needs to be excised from the English language 2) If I am Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this is not exactly the endorsement I was looking for from the boss.
18. “We had 42 to 48 bills passed.”
It’s one or the other right? Not a range?
19. “I think that General Kelly is going to be a fantastic chief of staff, however.”
That’s how Trump finished his answer to a question about whether he had confidence in Sessions. So…
20. “He got away with it for a long time, between him and his family. He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ballgame.”
Shorter Trump on Kim Jong Un: There’s a new sheriff in town. Or a new baseball manager. One or the other.
21. “You’ll see. You’ll see. And he’ll see. He will see.”
Yes, we will. All see. Or will we?
22.”It’s not a dare. It’s a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That’s a statement.”
No dare! No dare! Just a statement.
23. “Yeah, nuclear to me – number one, I would like to de-nuke the world.”
Trump nuclear policy: Step 1 – de-nuke the world. Step 2: See step 1.
24. “And nobody, including North Korea, is going to be threatening us with anything.”
Related: No one puts baby in the corner.
25. “I did extremely well with the military vote.”
Among the 13% of voters who were military veterans, Trump beat Clinton 60%-34%. Also, the election ended 275 days ago.
26. “We’re … increasing our budget by many billions of dollars, because of North Korea and other reasons, having to do with the anti-missile.”
Ah, yes. The “anti-missile.”
27. “You have the leaks where people want to love me and they’re all fighting for love.”
The love leaks, of course. What Trump is trying to say is there is a difference between leaks of classified information and leaks about who is in good with the President and who isn’t. He is right about that.
28. “So they’re investigating something that never happened.”
This is Trump’s take on the special counsel investigation being run by Robert Mueller. Trump’s argument is that no collusion has been proven and so the investigation is a waste of time. The special counsel was convened, however to look at Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election primarily, and possible collusion secondarily.
29. “Russia – is very important for Russia, oil. Oil and gas.”
[Nods head] Yes, yes. Go on…
30. “The Democrats colluded on the Ukraine. So they colluded.”
This has been a hobbyhorse for Trump – and conservative media – for some time. The allegation is that a woman named Alexandra Chalupa, who worked as a consultant to the Democratic National Committee, served as a conduit for damaging information about Trump via the Ukraine. Here’s a good piece that explains all that.
31. “Did they do something wrong because they didn’t file the right document or whatever? Perhaps. You’ll have to look at them.”
Did some people who work for me break the rules? Maybe. But that’s their problem.
32. “I’m not dismissing anybody.”
Trump knocks down rumors that he might fire Mueller. Of course, given his changeability from day to day, this promise has a quick expiration date.
33. “There’s no – there is no collusion. You know why? Because I don’t speak to Russians.”
That Trump doesn’t speak to the Russians is not proof – or anything close to it – that there was no collusion in the election. To be clear: There is no proof that collusion happened. But this is not evidence it didn’t.
34. “I won because I went to Wisconsin. I went to Michigan. I won Pennsylvania.”
The election happened 275 days ago.
35. “I’m very disappointed in Mitch. But if he gets these bills passed, I’ll be very happy with him.”
Look, Mitch. You are giving me a sad face right now. But pass some bills I want and that frown will turn upside down!
36. “He just left the Democratic Party, and he became a Republican, which was a great moment; hasn’t happened in many years.”
Democratic Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia announced plans to switch parties last week. But party switching is slightly more common than Trump seems to believe.
37. “They make the Apple iPhones. They make all of the desktop. They make – they’re the biggest in the world.”
They make the desktop. So true.
38. “Nobody has better respect for intelligence than Donald Trump.”
And no one – and I mean no one – goes third person like Donald Trump.
39. “I don’t know that it’ll be the end-all, but I think it’ll be a very, very – I think it’ll have a big impact on North Korea and what they’re doing.”
This feels like a good place to end.