He suggested his popularity would rise if he shot a Russian ship out of the water. He speculated on a nuclear holocaust. He blamed journalists for reporting “fake news” and suggested that, in another life, he would’ve made “a pretty good reporter.”
In an astonishing press conference that often took a combative tone, U.S. President Donald Trump turned a simple policy announcement -- his nominee for secretary of labor, Alex Acosta -- into an unbridled hour-and-a-half attack on the press, Hillary Clinton and whoever within the White House leaked information about Michael Flynn’s contact with Russia.
Here are 15 of the most surreal off-script statements from Trump:
He admitted he’s a politician now
“I think Putin probably assumes that he can’t make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal. I can’t believe I’m saying I’m a politician, but I guess that’s what I am now.”
He suggested that the public distrusts journalists because of him
“The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right?”
Asked about incidents of ant-Semitism across the U.S., Trump silenced the reporter and told him to ‘sit down’
“Okay, sit down, I understand the rest of your question. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism – the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”
When the reporter shouted to try to finish their question, Trump again cut him off.
“Quiet, quiet, quiet. See – he lied, he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”
He asked an African-American reporter if she was friends with the Congressional Black Caucus and if she could set up a meeting with them on his behalf
“Do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
She replied: “No, no, no. I’m just a reporter.”
Trump responded: “Then set up the meeting! Let’s go, set up a meeting, I would love to meet with the black caucus. I think it’s great.”
He admitted he can’t get his cabinet approved
“I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my cabinet approved.”
He said what Michael Flynn did ‘wasn’t wrong’ and he was ‘just doing his job’
“Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given.
He didn’t have to do that, because what he did wasn’t wrong — what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem.”
“As far as — as far as the actual making-the-call, fact I’ve watched various programs and I’ve read various articles where he was just doing his job.
That was very normal. You know, first everybody got excited because they thought he did something wrong. After they thought about it, it turned out he was just doing his job. So — and I do. And by the way, with all of that being said, I do think he’s a fine man.”
He suggested that his popularity would spike if he shot down a Russian ship
“If we could get along with Russia, that’s a positive thing. We have a very talented man, Rex Tillerson, who’s going to be meeting with them shortly and I told him. I said, ‘I know politically it’s probably not good for me.’ The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water. Everyone in this country’s going to say, ‘Oh, it’s so great.’
That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”
He speculated on a ‘nuclear holocaust’
“If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.
They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Asked if anyone from his team had contact with Russia during the election, he said ‘nobody that I know of’
“No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody.”
He called stories about Russia ‘fake news’ and blamed former Obama staffers
“Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration because they’re there, because we have our new people going in place, right now.”
Speaking to a CNN reporter, Trump said the TV network is less popular than Congress
“You’re not the only one so don’t feel badly. But I think it should be straight. I think it should be — I think it would be frankly more interesting. I know how good everybody’s ratings are right now but I think that actually — I think that’d actually be better.
People — I mean, you have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that’s right.”
He accused journalists of not covering an election story
“Now, when WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information. They’re giving stuff — what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates.
Which, by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates. Can you imagine — seriously — can you imagine if I received the questions? It would be the electric chair. OK, he should be put in the electric — you would even call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, OK.”
He said reporters have a tone of ‘hatred’
“And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word ‘tone.’ The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred.”
He said that, if he were a journalist, he’d be a ‘pretty good’ one
“I know what’s good and bad. I’d be a pretty good reporter, not as good as you. But I know what’s good. I know what’s bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive — sometimes something that should be very positive, they’ll make OK. They’ll even make it negative.”
He speculated on how the press conference would be covered
“Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.’ I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.
But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’ I’m not ranting and raving.”