In what The Hill called a “wild”, and others dubbed “surreal” press conference, that lasted 1 hour at 16 minutes and at times bordered on the absurd – at the president’s own choosing – Trump covered a lot of ground, starting with his fierce defense of Brett Kavanaugh, by forcefully denying the sexual misconduct accusations against his embattled Supreme Court nominee.
Describing the allegations as part of a Democratic “con job'” and admitting that his own experience with sexual assault allegations has impacted his view of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Trump called Kavanaugh “one of the highest quality people I’ve ever met” and reiterated his belief the three women who have come forward against the judge are making “false accusations.”
Trump however declined to answer if he thought the women were liars: “I won’t get into that game I will only tell you this – this is one of he highest quality people I ever met,” he said. Earlier Wednesday, when asked if the woman were liars, Trump responded: “What’s your next question?”
“I can’t tell you whether or not they’re liars until I hear them,” Trump told reporters in New York where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly. “It’s possible they could be convincing.” Trump called the women’s allegations part of “a big, fat con job” being played by Democrats to prevent him from putting a conservative judge on the Supreme Court.
“These are all false to me,” he said when pressed on the accusations lobbed at Kavanaugh.
Still, despite his stated skepticism over the allegations, Trump said if the testimony against Kavanagh from his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, convinced him that Kavanaugh did commit misconduct, he would withdraw his nomination.
“If I thought he was guilty of something like this, yeah, sure,” Trump said when asked if there were any circumstances he would name a new person to the Supreme Court.
It was the first time Trump has publicly raised the possibility of pulling Kavanaugh from consideration and is likely a sign that he is unsatisfied with the judge’s efforts to defend himself from the charges. “I look forward to watching her,” he said of Ford. “I can be persuaded of anything.”
But the overall message from Trump on Wednesday was that there was little reason to believe the women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misdeeds.
Trump also explained that his attitude was rooted in his own experience of facing similar accusations, which he said are all false. Nineteen women have claimed that Trump had extramarital affairs with them or accused him of sexual misconduct.
“I’ve been a famous person for a long time,” Trump said. “When I see it, I view it differently than someone at home watching television. … It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false accusations.”
Trump said such accusations could be made against any man, including apparently the US founding fathers: “If we brought George Washington here, and we say this is George Washington, the Democrats would vote against him,” Trump said. “He may have had a bad past. Who knows?”
And not just man: Trump argued he could pick a woman for the job and she could have allegations against her.
“Whether it’s a man or a woman – it can happen the other way also. I could pick a woman and she could have charges made from many years ago,” he said.
One thing that was certain is that Trump is not a fan of Michael Avenatti, whom he slammed on several occasions after it emerged that the lawyer is representing a third women accusing Kavanaugh of being present during her “gang rape” at a high school party in the 1980s. The president called that allegation “another beauty” and accused Avenatti of being disreputable.
“This other con-artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today,’ the president said of the latest allegation. ‘I can tell you her lawyer is a low life.”
“Bad reputation. Take a look at his past,” Trump said of the lawyer, who also represents adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against the president.
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Trump also pivoted to the other key topic, the future employment status of Rod Rosenstein, saying he is leaning toward keeping him on the job, after an explosive report alleged that the deputy attorney general had suggested secretly recording the president last year.
“I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein,” Trump said. “Many people said I had the right to absolutely fire him. He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that. And nobody in this room believes it, by the way,” Trump said.
Trump also said he may delay the meeting with Rosenstein, scheduled for Thursday, so it does not distract from the Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings.
After The New York Times reported Friday that Rosenstein proposed to secretly tape Trump in spring 2017 and drumming up support among cabinet officials to invoke the 25th amendment to force Trump from office for being unfit, Rosenstein challenged the report, calling it “inaccurate” and “factually incorrect.”
Trump left the door open to firing Rosenstein on Wednesday, but hinted that he believed his denials: “I’m talking to him, we’ve had a good talk. He said he never said it. He said he doesn’t believe it. He said he has a lot of respect for me. He was very nice, and we’ll see,” Trump said.
Trump also repeated his oft-used phrase that there was “no collusion,” a reference to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly criticized Rosenstein and his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, over the investigation, which he views as an illegitimate “witch hunt” against him.
“There was no collusion, there was no obstruction, unless you call obstruction the fact that I fight back. I do fight back,” Trump said.
“I’m going to meet with him tomorrow, I may call Rod tonight or tomorrow and ask for a little bit of a delay in the meeting. I don’t want to do anything that gets in the way of this very important Supreme Court pick,” Trump added.
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There were many other topics covered during the at times surreal conference including, far too many to cover in depth, but here are some of the other highlights:
- China: Trump said that his personal friendship with President Xi Jinping of China may be over. There is no sign that the trade war between the U.S. and China is slowing down, as Trump upped the ante by also accusing China of trying to meddle in the election.
- Trade War: Trump made the claim that his trade war with China has had no negative economic impact in the U.S. This is not what Republicans campaigning in the Midwest want to hear. Farmers, auto manufacturers and other key industries have said the trade war is hitting them hard in their pockets—and Trump seems to be telling them that everything is fine.
- Canada: Trump said openly that he rejected a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. To this, the Toronto Star responded that Trudeau did not request a one-on-one meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations meeting. As Bloomberg notes, “that display of open disrespect for a U.S. ally in the middle of tough trade negotiations does not portend good things for renegotiating NAFTA.”
- The Fed: Trump again criticized the Fed eserve for raising interest rates, a departure from presidential norms governing the independence of the Fed.
- Fake News: Trump continued to bash the media—calling reporters “fake” and dishonest – while giving praise to Fox News multiple times. He took questions from 17 different reporters during a press conference that lasted for 1 hour 16 minutes, showing that he very much cares about dominating the news cycle.
- Various: Trump claimed that he won the female vote, that President Obama was planning to go to war with North Korea, that his personal intervention had saved millions of lives and that news outlets made up phony stories to attack him.
- Various #2: the president joked that he wanted to leave on a high note like the musician Elton John. He also joked that although The New York Times is “failing,” “I still love the paper,” and called on a Kurdish journalist by referring to him as “Mr. Kurd.”
Watch the full press conference below: