On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump took a victory lap via an almost-90-minute news conference that came fewer than 24 hours after his party lost control of the House but strengthened its Senate majority.
Trump seemed entirely unconcerned with his party’s loss of one of the chambers of Congress – instead he focused on reading out the names of Republican House members who refused to embrace him (and lost) and sparring with reporters. I went through the transcript of the whole thing and pulled out the best lines. They’re below.
1. “It was a big day yesterday. Incredible day.”
Democrats won control of the House.
2. “The media coverage set a new record and a new standard.”
He doesn’t mean this as a compliment. Also, a new record for what? Negativity? How is that even quantifiable?
3. “This vigorous campaigning stopped the blue wave they talked about.”
Democrats won control of the House. And are likely to gain more than 30 seats. I don’t know how we define a “wave,” but I tend to think a 30+ seat gain that flips control of the House would meet most people’s criteria.
4. “This election marks the largest Senate gains for a president’s party in a first midterm election since at least President Kennedy’s in 1962.”
Correct! Democrats gained three seats in Kennedy’s first midterm election, the same number Trump looks on track to have gained. Republicans gained two Senate seats in 1970 in Richard Nixon’s first midterm and one seat in George W. Bush’s 2002 midterm.
5. “We also had a slew of historic wins in the governors’ races – the governors’ races were incredible – against very well-funded, talented and skilled Democrat candidates, and people that worked very, very hard – respectfully – for those candidates, like Oprah Winfrey, who I like.”
That sentence took a turn at the end there, no? Why did Trump mention Oprah? Because she campaigned with Stacey Abrams in Georgia?
6. “By expanding our Senate majority, the voters have also clearly rebuked the Senate Democrats for their handling of the Kavanaugh hearings – that was a factor, I think maybe a very big factor, the way that was handled.”
It might have been a factor but, at least according to the exit polls, not in the way Trump is suggesting. Forty three percent of people said they supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court while 47% opposed it. Now, among those who supported the Kavanaugh confirmation, 87% voted for Republicans for the House. So, Trump could be right that Kavanaugh fired up the GOP base. But he’s not right to say that voters “clearly rebuked” Senate Democrats for voting against Kavanaugh. (All except Joe Manchin, of course.)
7. “You had some that decided to, ‘Let’s stay away. Let’s stay away.’ They did very poorly. I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”
Thus begins the throw-Republican-members-who-refused-to-embrace-Trump-under-the-bus portion of the President’s remarks.
8. “But Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”
[narrator voice] He’s not sorry at all.
9. “I think she could have won that race, but she didn’t want to have any embrace.”
Trump is talking about soon-to-be former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) here. And, no, Comstock would not have won by welcoming the “embrace” of Trump. She would have almost certainly lost by more.
10. “Peter Roskam didn’t want the embrace. Erik Paulsen didn’t want the embrace.”
“The embrace.” It’s a thing.
11. “We’ve had tremendous support, and tremendous support in the Republican Party, among the biggest support in the history of the party. I’ve actually heard at 93%, it’s a record, but I won’t say that, because who knows?”
This is the essence of Trump’s verbal gymnastics. He floats the idea, then he affirms the idea, then he says that other people say it but he doesn’t really know. What a world.
12. “Hopefully, we can all work together next year to continue delivering for the American people, including on economic growth, infrastructure, trade, lowering the cost of prescription drugs.”
Trump here offers a least a rhetorical olive branch to Democrats. And he’s right that on infrastructure and lowering prescription drug costs, he and Democrats could well find common purpose.
13. “You know, I keep hearing about investigations, fatigue, like from the time – almost from the time I announced I was going to run, they’ve been giving us this investigation fatigue. Been a long time, they’ve got nothing, zero. You know why? Cause there is nothing.”
Wait, who is the “they” here? Democrats? If Trump is talking about the Russia investigation, that runs through his Justice Department. And the probe is being run by Robert Mueller, a Republican. So….
14. “But they can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate, and a lot of very questionable things were done, between leaks of classified information and many other elements that should not have taken place.”
Yes, this is a threat, aimed at Democrats if they step up their oversight role of Trump’s White House after winning the House. Straight out.
15. “So we can look at us, they can look at us, then we can look at them and it’ll go back and forth. And it’ll probably be very good for me politically. I could see it being extremely good politically, because I think I’m better at that game than they are actually.”
He said the quiet part out loud.
16.”You can’t do them simultaneously, by the way. Just think, if somebody said ‘Oh, you can do them,’ no you can’t. Cause if they’re doing that, we’re not doing the other, just so you understand.”
I really and truly don’t understand.
17. “We want crystal clean water, we want beautiful perfect air. Air and water has to be perfect.”
Perfect air is the best air. Many people are saying that.
18. “So environmental is very important to me.”
Environmental. So important.
19. “I speak to Democrats all the time. They agree that a wall is necessary. A wall is necessary.”
I have a VERY hard time believing that Democrats tell Trump that the southern border wall is necessary.
20. “We’re building the wall. We’ve started.”
Tuesday night ends the wall-building until at least after the 2020 election. There is a 0% chance House Democrats will back significant federal spending on a border wall.
21. “I’d rather answer that at a little bit different time.”
This was Trump’s answer on whether he would fire Jeff Sessions as attorney general. News emerged later that day that Sessions was fired – by chief of staff John Kelly – something Trump likely knew as he was speaking to media.
22. “As I’ve told you, they’re under audit. They have been for a long time. They’re extremely complex. People wouldn’t understand them.”
To sum up, these are Trump’s reasons for not releasing his tax returns: a) they’re under audit and b) they are too complex for any normal person to understand. On the first reason, nothing bars someone from releasing tax returns under audit. On the second, maybe he should trust the American public’s intelligence a little more?
23. “They’re done by – among the biggest and best law firms in the country. Same thing with the accounting firms, the accountants are a very, very large, powerful firm from the standpoint of respect.”
To which I ask: Why is it germane to the question of whether or not the President will release his tax returns that they are handled by “a very, very large, powerful firm”?
24. “But it’s big, and it’s complex and it’s probably feet-high. It’s a very complex instrument. And I think that people wouldn’t understand it.”
So, Donald Trump is saying his taxes are a very complicated, feet-high instrument. Also, big. Okey dokey!
25. “Nobody turns over a return when it’s under audit.”
Except that Richard Nixon did exactly that in 1973.
26. “And I think I know more – and I think I know more than they know.”
What’s Trump talking about here? Does it really even matter?
27. “I’m not concerned about anything with the Russia investigation because it’s a hoax.”
[narrator voice] That’s not true.
28. “You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible and the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”
This is Donald Trump talking to my CNN colleague Jim Acosta. And, yes, it is rich that President Trump is decrying someone for being rude or for allegedly treating people badly.
29.” You aren’t – you aren’t the best.”
Just the President of the United States telling NBC White House reporter Peter Alexander he’s not great. Totally normal stuff!
30. “When you report fake news – which CNN does a lot – you are the enemy of the people.”
ALWAYS remember this: When Trump says “fake news,” you should hear it as, “news that isn’t good for me.” Which, of course, doesn’t make it fake.
31. “We won a lot of elections last night, we did very well last night, and I think it’s going to have a very positive impact.”
This is Trump’s response to a question about whether he was dividing the country with his rhetoric. And yes, his answer makes no sense. Unless you consider that, to him, winning is everything – and justifies all things.
32. “This is a investigation where many, many millions of dollars has been spent, and there’s no collusion. It was supposed to be on collusion. There’s no collusion. And I think it’s – I think it’s very bad for our country, I will tell you. I think it’s a shame.”
Hours after giving this answer, Trump fired Sessions and named Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker, who has been openly critical of Mueller’s investigation in the past, is now expected to oversee the probe. Which all makes perfect sense.
33. “Sit down. I didn’t call you. I didn’t call you. I didn’t call you.”
In which the President of the United States tells American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan to sit down. (Ryan is also a CNN contributor.)
34. “I don’t understand what you’re saying. What?”
That’s Donald Trump telling Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, the Washington correspondent for Al Arabiya TV, that he can’t understand what she is saying.
35. “Well, I think the results that I’ve learned – and maybe confirm – I think people like me. I think people like the job I’m doing, frankly.”
Democrats won control of the House.
36. “I could fire everybody right now.”
Donald Trump on the Russia investigation – just hours before he informed the world, via tweet, that he had fired the attorney general. Not ominous at all!
37. “I stay away from it. But you know what I do? I let it just go on. They’re wasting a lot of money, but I let it go on, because I don’t want to do that. But you’re right; I could end it right now. I could say, ‘That investigation is over.’”
He really couldn’t. But like I said, not at all ominous!
38. “It’s – it’s really – it’s a disgrace, frankly. And it’s an embarrassment to our country. It’s an embarrassment to the people of our country. And it’s too bad.”
To be clear: Donald Trump is talking about a special counsel probe being run out of the Justice Department that is trying to get to the bottom of an active measures campaign by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
39. “Just going to push. I’ve been pushing. I’ve done a very good job, too. They’re very happy with me.”
This is Trump’s answer on how he plans to make good on his pledge as a candidate to be a anti-abortion president. Yes, really.
40. “And we have been working very hard on China and Russia and everybody else looking into our elections or meddling with our elections.”
This directly contradicts Trump’s repeated undermining of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Directly.
41. “I actually had a very good meeting in Russia that you people didn’t agree with, but that’s OK, it doesn’t much matter obviously”
In that meeting, Trump said that both America and Russia were to blame for any alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. In doing so, he sided with Russian president Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community.
42. “That was President Obama’s regime. That was during President Obama, right? That – that was not during me.”
Trump seems here to not be willing to acknowledge that Putin annexed Crimea, not Obama. Yes, it happened while Obama was president. But that’s about the extent of the role Obama played in all of it.
43. “To be honest – I’ll be honest, I thought it was a – I thought it was a very close to complete victory.”
Democrats won control of the House.
44. “But if you look at it from the standpoint of gridlock, I really believe there’s going to be much less gridlock because of the way this is going, than any other way”
[nods head slowly but steadily]
45. “I’m surprised at a lot of people. They start off, they’re young people, they’re there for two years, and they’re old by the time they leave.”
Truer words have never been uttered.
46. “I mean, we have many people lined up for every single position. Any position – everybody wants to work in this White House.”
This is not true. The White House struggled for months to fill the communications director job because no one at that level within the GOP wanted the job. Trump eventually hired former Fox News executive Bill Shine for the position.
47. ” I would love to see unity and peace and love and any other word you want to use.”
“What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” – Elvis Costello
48. “Nothing surprises me in politics.”
49. “I’d be very good at a low tone.”
Yup. Low tone. The best.
50- 51. “I would love to do very – very even-toned.”
“I would love to have a very even, modest, boring tone. I would be very honored by that.”
An amazing couplet. Shakespearean, almost.
52. “I – I don’t – I really don’t understand you.”
The President of the United States to a Japanese reporter.
53. “I think I am a great moral leader and I love our country.”
And humble, to boot!
54. “Now, what’s bad for them is being in the majority, I’m just going to blame them. You understand, I’m going to blame them. They’re the majority. Honestly, it makes it much simpler for me.”
He said the quiet part out loud. Again.
55. “I – look, now that the election’s over, the election’s over. Now everybody is in love.”
56. “You know what, when you get bored, would you please tell me? Seriously. Tell me.”
This is a deep insight into Trump. He wants to make sure he is still entertaining reporters. Because being boring is death to him. And because he loves to spar with reporters.
57. “That’s such a racist question.”
The President’s response to this question, from PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor, who is African-American: “On the campaign trail you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. Now people are also saying….”
58. “Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans?”
[narrator voice] He doesn’t. Not even close.
59. “In Jeff Flake’s case, it’s me, pure and simple. I retired him. I’m very proud of it. I did the country a great service.”
That’s a Republican senator Donald Trump is talking about.
60. “I don’t know who Lil Jon is. I don’t – I really don’t.”
61. “No, I don’t, no. Do I regret it?”
Trump doesn’t regret an ad that was never run on CNN and pulled by NBC and Fox News because they deemed it to be racist. So.
62. “They said they couldn’t be beaten. They said Heidi could not be beat. ‘Please don’t do it,’ they couldn’t – this was a year out.”
No one – and I mean no one – though a Democratic senator in North Dakota couldn’t be beaten. Heitkamp was one of the most vulnerable senators from the first day of the 2018 election.
63. “And I’ll tell you something. When you look at the races that we won in Florida, which we weren’t expected to win, and Georgia, which we weren’t expected to win, and Ohio, which we weren’t expected to win, and won – I mean, you look at some of them, the number of votes that we got is incredible.”
The question Trump was asked here was: “So what do you say to women, Mr. President?”
64. “So I do fight back.”
This feels like a good place to end it.