The 2024 presidential campaign is only beginning, but former President Donald Trump made clear that his third bid for the White House will feel very much like the first two.
Trump might be trying a new tack in this campaign, running what is, to date, a more conventional race with less internal drama. But when pressed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, the 76-year-old showed on Wednesday night that he is very much the same person Americans came to know in 2016, throughout his four years in office, and in the aftermath of his 2020 election defeat.
Unsurprisingly, the mostly Trump-loyal audience lapped it up. Trump’s place in the GOP primary polls, as he often mentioned, is strong. In New Hampshire on Wednesday night, he showed why.
Here are some takeaways from Trump’s CNN town hall:
Trump says GOP should be willing to blow up debt ceiling: The US is on the brink of a catastrophic default on its sovereign debt. Asked what his advice is to Republicans in Washington, Trump was clear. “If they don’t give you massive cuts,” he said, “you’re going to have to do a default.” The US hit the debt ceiling set by Congress in January. That forced the Treasury Department to begin taking so-called extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bills. And Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently warned that the US could default on its obligations as soon as June 1 if Congress doesn’t address the debt limit.
Trump makes dismissive comments about Carroll: A little more than 24 hours after a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, and awarded her $5 million, the former president denied the accusations and again said he had never met Carroll. “This woman, I don’t know her. I never met her. I have no idea who she is,” Trump said, before going off on an odd tangent about her former husband and a pet.
Trump also brushed off a question over whether the verdict would hurt his standing with female voters, saying he doubted it. The reaction from the Trump-friendly audience appeared to support his opinion – they laughed at his jokes and other dismissive comments about Carroll.
Trump doesn’t say if he would back Ukraine in war with Russia: Trump refused to say whether he wanted Ukraine to prevail in its war with invading Russia.“I don’t think in terms of winning and losing,” he said, “I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.” Asked to choose a side he would prefer to win, Trump again demurred. “I want everyone to stop dying,” he said before promising to end the war in “24 hours.”
Trump suggests family separation immigration policy could return: Trump said he would return to one of the harshest immigration enforcement policies imposed by his administration: separating migrant families at the US-Mexico border. “When you say to a family that if you come, we’re going to break you up, they don’t come,” Trump said. His comments come as Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic public health restriction that became a key tool officials used to expel migrants at the US-Mexico border, is set to expire Thursday.
Trump was vague on federal abortion ban: Trump repeatedly ducked questions about whether he would sign into law a federal abortion ban, as well as questions regarding after how many weeks into a pregnancy abortion should be made illegal. He touted the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade’s federal abortion rights as “such a great victory” – and one made possible by his appointment of three conservative justices. Trump said he supports exemptions to abortion bans for cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. “We now have a great negotiating ability, and I think we’re going to be able to get something done,” Trump said.