A defiant President Trump sparred with reporters Wednesday in a testy back-and-forth for more than a half-hour as he dug in over his positions on the trade war with China, gun control, the apparent pursuit of a Greenland real estate deal, the treatment of migrants at the border and his comments on Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
“I am the chosen one,” the president said at one point from the South Lawn of the White House, defending his moves on trade, saying “somebody had to do it, so I’m taking on China.”
In comments made before boarding Marine One, Trump also doubled down on his recent assertion that Jewish-Americans who vote for Democrats show “great disloyalty” because of the party’s embrace of Tlaib and Omar, amid an outcry from Democrats over his comments.
“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 said.
Democrats have called Trump out for his use of the word “disloyalty,” with some likening it to anti-Semitic language that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than America.
The president also insisted he is still considering supporting stronger background checks for gun buyers, denying that he told the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre this week he had taken it off the table.
“I didn’t say anything about that,” Trump said, though adding that the country currently has “strong background checks” on the books but he still wants “to close loopholes.”
The president was pressed over his administration announcing Wednesday it would move to scrap a major court agreement known as the Flores agreement in order to allow for migrant families to be detained longer as their cases are being considered, instead of having to release them after 20 days. “This new rule will do even more to bring them together,” Trump said.
He defended his administration’s treatment of migrants at the border, while saying he gets blamed for things that started under his predecessor. “President Obama had separation, President Obama built the cells, the cages that you people talk about and attribute them to me,” he said.
And he suggested that his administration is considering how to revoke birthright citizenship, which allows anyone born in the U.S. to automatically become an American citizen
“We’re looking at birthright citizenship very seriously,” Trump said. “It’s frankly very ridiculous.”
On other issues, he defended his interest in the United States acquiring Greenland – despite Denmark’s unwillingness to negotiate – calling it a “very good idea.” On Tuesday, Trump said he was canceling a meeting with Denmark’s leader over her critical comments about his interest in Greenland.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had called the idea “absurd.” Trump on Thursday called those comments “nasty.”
He also referenced left-wing protesters who recently clashed with right-wing activists in Portland, saying he considers Antifa “a terrorist organization.”
After speaking for more than 30 minutes, the president boarded Marine One to embark on a trip to Kentucky, where he is set to deliver remarks at the American Veterans 75th National Convention in Louisville.