This might be remembered as the week President Donald Trump, back in campaign mode, got his sharp-tongued rhetorical groove back. And he kept it up Friday, even while making his first public remarks about a shooting at a Maryland newsroom that occurred roughly 30 miles from the White House and left five dead.
The president came to the White House’s East Room for a long-scheduled event on the six-month-anniversary of a GOP tax law he signed in late December with a prepared statement about the Annapolis shooting at the Capital Gazette office.
But he did not lead with those remarks.
“I guess they like us,” he said to the people lined up on the stage behind him, whom the White House described as beneficiaries of the tax law, as the crowd showered them with loud applause.
Once behind the podium, the president stood beaming as the crowd continued to applaud. He then opted to lead his remarks with another topic, one he mentions often in public remarks and on Twitter: “The economy is indeed doing well.”
Trump then said Republicans last December “unleashed an economic miracle” by passing and enacting the tax law. He touted what he called its effect of keeping “more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket or wherever you want to spend it.”
Trump was on stage for two minutes before he moved to his statement about Thursday’s deadly shooting.
“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,” he said.
The president addressed the mass shooting for about one minute and 20 seconds. Before he pivoted back to his tax law celebration, the president paused, looked out into the audience and said, “Thank you.”
The audience of invited guests seemed to understand the cue. They applauded, once again, in unison.
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From there, the consoler in chief went back into campaigner in chief mode. Here is a sampling of brow-furrowing quotes and assertions Trump made as he punctuated another wild week of his presidency with a tax bash.
The GOP tax overhaul Trump and his guests were celebrating also got rid of the 2010 health care law’s individual insurance mandate and opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for energy extraction.
But on the latter, Trump revealed Friday he initially “wasn’t going to do it because I was angry at someone.”
“I said, ‘I’m not going to do it.’ And then when I heard Ronald Reagan couldn’t do it, nobody could do it, they’d been trying for 50 years,” he said with a grin. “I said, ‘Oh, let’s do that immediately.’ It’s like a challenge, right? Challenge.”
The United States has for decades been the world’s largest economy, as International Monetary Fund data shows. But in recent days, Trump has — curiously — started mentioning it in public remarks.
“We’re the largest economy in the world by far. And as you know, we’ve increased a lot over the last one and a half years,” he said. “But we’re almost double the size of China, and far bigger than anybody else. And we’re going up very rapidly and it’s going to continue to go up very rapidly.”
“Biggest in the world by far. Think of that,” he continued, before asking the audience, “Did you know that?”
Trump often touts his strong “friendship” with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. He has hailed Xi’s help in moving things along with North Korea. But U.S.-China relations have soured this year amid a back and forth about Beijing’s trade practices and an ever-escalating tariff conflict.
Yet the president on Friday declared, “China’s terrific,” and “Our relationship is terrific.”
But Democratic members such as Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware frequently warn Trump and his administration that Xi’s government, despite his charm offensive, still employs “illegal trade practices” and continues its habit of “stealing billions of dollars worth of our intellectual property.”
Trump also returned to some of the 2016 campaign-trail rhetoric that defined his election success.
He again dubbed past U.S. presidents and lawmakers “stupid” and accused them of never, ever negotiating with other countries — despite his frequent lambasting of the North American Free Trade Agreement and President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear accord, Paris climate agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on a daily basis as a candidate.
“And just to finish, many countries are calling, saying, ‘Let’s negotiate,’” he said. “They weren’t doing that before.”
Then came his swipe at Obama and the 43 other previous chief executives: “Of course, I’m not sure if your past representatives would’ve known the difference.”