Former FBI Director James Comey is a criminal. Democrats are the ones who decided to separate families at the border. And Paul Manafort had nothing to do with the Trump campaign.
That’s what President Donald Trump said — and much more — in a bonkers impromptu press gaggle on Friday, where he gave his candid (and misguided) takes on just about anything he was asked.
Trump doesn’t like to schedule his press conferences, and the last long interview he gave was a call-in to “Fox and Friends” in April. This one, as the last one, was unexpected and happened on the pavement right outside the West Wing.
Here are the highlights:
Comey is a criminal
The Department of Justice’s internal watchdog released its highly anticipated report about Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal that broke out during the 2016 presidential election. The report found that while the former FBI director broke protocol and acted insubordinately by closing and then reopening the investigation, political bias didn’t affect his decision-making.
Trump, however, read the report as Comey committing some “very criminal acts,” he told the press Friday.
And he used the occasion to repeat the claim of his own innocence. "I think that the report yesterday — maybe more importantly than anything — it totally exonerates me,” Trump also said. The report was not about his own campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.
Trump said Manafort had nothing to do with his campaign
Trump said he feels’ “badly” for Manafort, who only worked for his campaign for 49 days, according to Trump. “Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign,” the president insisted.
It’s uncontested, however, that Manafort worked on Trump’s campaign for about five months.
When asked whether Trump would consider using his power of presidential pardon to exonerate people under investigation as part of the Russia investigation — like Manafort — Trump said, “I don’t want to talk about that. I do want to see people treated fairly.”
Trump then praised himself for recently pardoning Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug offense. Kim Kardashian West had called Trump’s attention to Johnson's case during a meeting with him in the Oval Office two weeks ago.
Asked about those who don’t have people like Kardashian West to advocate on their behalf, Trump said, “Well, I’m looking at them, too.”
Trump praised Kim Jong Un — for the safety of the American people
Trump defended his own praise of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, despite his record of human rights abuses, by saying that he was sincerely attempting to avoid nuclear war.
"Hey, he is the head of a country, and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anybody think different,” Trump said when asked if he might invite Kim to the White House. “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same."
"You're defending now Kim Jong Un's human rights records. How can you do that?" a reporter subsequently asked Trump.
“You know why? Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family,” Trump said.
Trump might have given Kim his personal phone number
Trump claimed to have “largely solved” the U.S.’s problems with North Korea, which he said Obama told him was the biggest problem facing the country before Trump took office.
“We signed a very good document,” Trump said. But more important than the document is Trump’s relationship with Kim, he said. “I can now call him. I gave him a very direct number.”
Trump blamed the Democrats for the families being separated at the border
Trump has repeatedly blamed the Democrats for the undocumented kids being separated from their parents at the border.
“I hate it. I hate the children being taken away,” Trump said. “The Democrats have to change their law.”
Trump likely got that idea from his own party, which has been using a decades-old law and court decision to hurl blame at the Dems for the separation of families at the border. But that’s not the case — no law or court decision requires the administration to break up families.
The policy of taking children away from their parents at the border is strictly Trump’s own. It’s earned him rebuke from lawmakers and the United Nations.
Trump said Obama let Putin take Crimea
Trump also blamed Obama for the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, which cost the Russians their place in the G-8 — now appropriately named the G-7.
“President Obama lost Crimea just so you understand. This was before I got there,” Trump said. “President Obama lost Crimea.”
Asked to clarify, Trump said that Putin didn’t respect Obama, and that, if he had, he wouldn’t have dared annex the region.
Trump openly insulted a reporter
As a female reporter hurled questions at the president, he got frustrated. “Quiet!” he grumbled.
At one point he can be heard calling her “so obnoxious.”
Cover image: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)