MANHATTAN (CN) – In his first solo press conference since February 2017, President Donald Trump addressed allegations of sexual and physical assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by recalling his own experiences with similar allegations, blaming Democrats for what he called a “big fat con job” and warning men that we live in a “very dangerous period in our country.”
While he confirmed he would pull Kavanaugh’s nomination if he thought he was guilty, Trump also said he wants Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, to have her hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday before he makes any decisions.
In 80 minutes of his trademark ricochet style Wednesday evening, Trump also claimed the United States would be at war with North Korea had he not been elected, said he watches PBS, announced health care is “probably [a] tougher” deal than negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine, and seemed to accuse George Washington of sexual assault.
“He may have had some – I think, accusations made? Didn’t he have a couple of things in his past?” Trump asked reporters. “George Washington would be voted against, 100 percent, by [Chuck] Schumer and the con artists.”
Most questions at the conference were about the Kavanaugh situation, which drew annoyed sighs and mutters from reporters in town to cover this week’s United Nations General Assembly. As of press time Wednesday evening, physical and sexual assault allegations from five women against Kavanaugh have come to light. Kavanaugh denies all of them.
“The people who have complained to me about it the most about what’s happened are women,” Trump told the 200-plus reporters assembled at the Lotte New York Palace hotel in midtown Manhattan.
“Women are so angry.”
The president has given about two dozen joint press conferences with other world leaders during his tenure. But the last time he spoke formally with the media one-on-one, just the president and the press, was about a year and a half ago.
To kick off Wednesday’s presser, Trump delivered about five minutes’ worth of prepared remarks, mostly regarding the General Assembly. After that, Trump opened the field to questions on any topic.
Prepared remarks, interest rate and more
In his prepared opening remarks, Trump touted the beginning of trade talks with Japan, a “very good” relationship with Mexico and a “tremendous [trade] deal” with South Korea. He expressed displeasure at the Federal Reserve Bank’s move today to raise interest rates, but offered himself a conciliatory pat on the back.
“They’re raising ‘em because we’re doing so well,” Trump said. “We’re doing much better than I had projected. We’re doing much better than anybody ever thought possible.”
Seeming to relish the attention from the over 200 reporters in the room, Trump launched early into an exhibition of his infamous freewheeling chatter. He spoke at one point in the third person about the size of his brain – “very, very large” – and later added, “They’re doing studies on Donald Trump; they’re trying to figure it all out.”
UN General Assembly
Addressing laughter from delegates during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly this week, Trump said: “They weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing with me. We had fun…People had a good time with me. We were doing it together…The United States is respected again.”
Earlier today – without offering any evidence – Trump accused China of meddling in the U.S. midterm elections. Asked about it later, he declined to offer much more information.
“We have evidence,” he said. “We have evidence; it’ll come out.”
Predictably, the nearly 80-minute discussion pinballed, bouncing from Kavanaugh to Canada to North Korea to China to the Middle East.
Trump would not say whether he planned to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.
“I would certainly prefer not doing that,” Trump said, adding there was “no obstruction” or collusion on his part. He was scheduled to meet with Rosenstein on Thursday, but said he might move that meeting so as not to distract from Ford’s hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“My preference would be to keep him and to let him finish up,” he said.
Trump also spoke of the souring relationship with Canada and claimed he had canceled a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, citing trade disagreements.
“I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along at all with their negotiators,” Trump said.
A spokeswoman for Trudeau’s government issued a statement after Trump’s press conference stating a meeting had never been requested or scheduled.
A world leader with whom Trump seems to be on better terms is North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Trump claimed Wednesday to have received “incredible” and “magnificent” private letters from Kim.
Trump often touts that he has convinced North Korea to begin denuclearization, but no formal agreement exists, and he refused Wednesday to offer any sort of time frame for action.
On Iran and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, Trump seemed convinced he could renegotiate. He pulled the U.S. out of the multilateral Iran Deal earlier this year.
“It doesn’t matter what world leaders think on Iran,” he said. “Iran’s gonna come back to me, and they’re gonna make a good deal. I think. Maybe not. Deals – you never know.”
He later added, “I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. Is that too much to ask?”
Israel and Palestine
Though earlier Wednesday Trump had expressed support for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, he seemed less certain by the time the 5 p.m. presser rolled around.
“I’m happy if they’re happy,” he said. “I’m a facilitator. I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore.”
He added: “I think probably two-state is more likely. If they do a single, if they do a double, I’m okay with it.”
He also acknowledged some former ignorance about the situation, explaining that a dozen leaders had told him peace in the Middle East was impossible without peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.
“I said why, why does that matter so much?” Trump told journalists Wednesday, but said now he appreciates the importance.
On the press
The president at one point referred to a Kurdish reporter as “Mr. Kurd,” failed on several occasions to call on female reporters toward the beginning of the open-question period – prompting CNN’s Jim Acosta to ask him to – and then repeatedly cut off female reporters when they were speaking.
At the end of the press conference, apparently feeling like he had finished on a good note, he paraphrased Elton John and said he should not come back for an “encore” question.
He did anyway.