Before embarking on a trip to the southern border that he has already derided as pointless, President Donald Trump stopped to chat with reporters about the ongoing government shutdown, whether he will declare a national emergency to ensure the wall on America’s southern border gets built and, yes, his thoughts on the announcement that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife are getting a divorce.
It was a tour de, um, something. Below I’ve picked out the most notable lines from Trump – and added some context and fact checking.
1. “So we’re going to Texas. We’re going to the border. Just spoke to some of my friends in Arizona. We have tremendous support.”
Why do these two thoughts go together? I have no idea. And away we go!
2. “The Republicans are extremely united. They all want to see something happen, but they’re extremely united.”
3. “For instance, this morning a number of people came out and said, ‘You do need very strong border security, and that includes a wall or whatever it is.’ A number of Democrats said that, but people don’t like to report on it.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: I can find no public evidence that Democrats came out on Thursday morning and said that we need a wall. And I looked.
4. “We have tremendous unity in the Republican Party. It’s really a beautiful thing to see. I don’t think there’ll be any breakaway, because they know we need border security and we have to have it.”
From The New York Times today: “Though Senate Republicans had not yet reached a breaking point, [Sen. Pat] Roberts said, ‘We’re getting pretty close.’”
5. “I’m a professional at technology.”
Are you now? And what does that entail?
6. “When during the campaign I would say, ‘Mexico’s going to pay for it,’ obviously I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check.”
This is a clear-as-day attempt to rewrite history by Trump. He repeatedly said that Mexico would need to make a distinct $5 billion or $10 billion payment to the United States for the wall. And when he asked crowds at his rallies in 2016 who was going to pay for the wall, they shouted back “Mexico!” not “Mexico by way of theoretical gains we will make as a result of a restructured international trade deal!” I mean, come on.
7. “So Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly.”
[narrator voice] They’re not.
8. “And I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy. I really do.”
This is a stunning statement. China, a nation that a) has a long record of human rights abuses b) manipulates currency and c) is no friend to the United States, is more honorable in Trump’s estimation than the top-ranking elected officials of the opposition party in the United States. Sit with that for a second. And then think of how China, once seeing that comment, will seek to use it to their advantage. Not good.
9. “I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.”
If this statement doesn’t worry you, you’re not paying enough attention.
10. “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency.”
“Absolute right.” A window into how Trump thinks about himself and the broader government.
11. “I haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it … I would almost say definitely.”
Classic bit of Trumpism here. I haven’t done it. I might do it. I am going to do it. All in just a few sentences!
12. “And they don’t come in at the checkpoints, which they do also.”
So, wait. Do they come in at the checkpoints or not?
13. “If we don’t make a deal – I mean, I would say a hundred percent, but I don’t want to say a hundred percent, because maybe something else comes up.”
There is a 100% chance Trump will declare a national emergency on the border if Congress can’t come up with a deal to get him his border wall money and re-open the government. Unless something happens. Then there might not be 100% chance. So….
14. “If we don’t make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms.”
Ah yes. The old “various mechanisms” explanation…
15. “I don’t know if they know how to make a deal.”
A suggestion from the peanut gallery: Maybe banging your hand on the table and storming out of the room when you don’t get exactly what you want isn’t the best way to make a deal?
16. “But that’s a wall, and they have other walls. We have many walls under consideration.”
Many walls. Some of the best walls. Believe me.
17. “There’s acid that can go through concrete.”
[nods head slowly]
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18. “I very calmly said, ‘If you’re not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye.’ And I left. I didn’t rant. I didn’t rave, like you reported.”
If you believe this, let me introduce you to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who Trump asserted will be on the job at least through 2020.
19. “I don’t have temper tantrums. I really don’t.”
“Touring his recently purchased Plaza Hotel in the late 1980s, Donald Trump noticed an armoire that offended him. Fuming, Trump accused his staff of making him look bad. In an expletive-laced explosion, he ripped the door off the subpar piece of furniture, a former senior Trump Organization employee recounted to CNN on Friday.” (From this September 2017 story.)
20. “I didn’t smash the table. I should have, but I didn’t smash the table.”
21. “And by the way, NBC may be – NBC may be the most dishonest reporters of all time.”
[Updates list of most dishonest reporters of all time]
22. “The Democrats, which I’ve been saying all along, they don’t give a damn about crime. They don’t care about crime.”
This feels like a bit of an oversimplification.
23. “And I’d say 80% of you are possibly in coordination with the opposition party.”
To be clear, the President of the United States is alleging – with zero evidence – that 8 in 10 White House reporters are secretly coordinating with Democrats. Sure, sure. All fine. Nothing to see here folks!
24. “The buck stops with everybody.”
Presidential leadership! The buck stops with everybody! (Remember: Trump never takes blame for anything – most especially things that are his fault.
25. “They’ve been taken over by a group of young people who, frankly, in some cases – I’ve been watching – I actually think they’re crazy.”
Donald Trump on Democrats: Crazy young people!
26. “We have to get a win or I’ll have to go national security, one or the other.”
Fascinating but not surprising: Trump views the government shutdown – which has 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or working for no pay – as something he either “wins” or loses. If he doesn’t win, he will take extraordinary measures – declaring a national emergency – to ensure he wins.
27. “Compromise is in my vocabulary, very strongly.”
Very strongly. Believe me.
28. “I didn’t know anything about it. Nothing about it.”
Trump on the record for the first time on whether he knew his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was sharing polling information with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.
29. “I wish him luck. It’s going to be a beauty.”
In which the President of the United States says the divorce of the world’s richest man is going to be a “beauty.” This feels like a good place to stop.