President Trump, facing criticism on multiple fronts from his handling of the economy to his relationship with the NRA and statements on Jewish Democrats, unleashed on the press Wednesday during lengthy comments to reporters.
The president defended himself against the idea that he’s waffling on support for stronger gun background checks; rejected allegations of anti-Semitism for questioning Jewish Americans’ loyalty; slammed Danish leaders for dismissing a possible sale of Greenland to the U.S.; and insisted his posture on the economy was a winning one despite signs of a possible recession.
The marathon media session ahead of Trump’s trip to Kentucky for a speech to AMVETS and a political event lasted roughly 40 minutes.
The president grew animated at times — at various points chastising NBC and The New York Times and CNN over the outlets’ credibility — as he sought to stave off concerns that his agenda is faltering.
Trump made headlines a day earlier by saying Jews who vote for Democrats either “lack knowledge” or show “great disloyalty” as he railed against two progressive congresswomen who have criticized the U.S.-Israel alliance. He escalated the controversy Wednesday, telling reporters that allegations the comments were anti-Semitic were “only in your head.”
“In my opinion, if you vote for a Democrat you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel. And only weak people would say anything other than that,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House.
The president has made support for Israel a centerpiece of his foreign policy, and asserted Wednesday that he has been responsible “for a lot of great things” for the Middle Eastern ally.
But he took the fight to another longstanding partner by chastising Denmark’s prime minister over her dismissal of a possible sale of Greenland. Trump announced late Tuesday he would no longer go to Denmark next month after Danish and Greenlandic leaders said a sale of the island was a non-starter.
Trump reportedly mused about the idea privately, and publicly said in recent days he viewed it as a strategically interesting venture. But he took exception to Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen calling the proposal “absurd,” saying her response was “nasty” and “sarcastic.”
“I thought it was a very not nice way of saying something. They could have told me no,” Trump told reporters. “She’s not talking to me, she’s talking to the United States of America. You don’t talk to the United States that way.”
Trump was forced to defend his domestic agenda as well, with talk of stronger gun laws and the state of the economy consuming the White House over the past week.
The president see-sawed over his stance on background checks, simultaneously insisting he had an “appetite” for the legislation while parroting pro-gun groups who believe the laws would be a “slippery slope” to confiscating legally owned weapons.
“We have background checks, but there are loopholes in the background checks, and that’s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday,” Trump said. “They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights.”
Trump has taken heat for appearing to cave once again to groups like the NRA, but he insisted he remained open to a compromise with lawmakers.
On the economy, Trump similarly tried to have it both ways.
The president has insisted that the country’s economic outlook remains “strong,” and that he’s only mulling tax cuts and calling for a rate cut from the Federal Reserves as measures that could further boost growth.
He appeared to echo the belief that only he can bring prosperity by securing a trade deal with China, even as economists warn that his trade war with Beijing is harming American consumers and businesses.
“I am the chosen one,” Trump said. “Somebody had to do it, so I’m taking on China,” he continued. “I’m taking on China on trade, and you know what? We’re winning.”