After a roughing-up from Bob Woodward and a bruising ambush by the New York Times, Trump rolled into Billings, Montana, Thursday to deliver a rally speech so unhinged that even his supporters appeared bemused.
During a barely coherent address before a subdued, often silent crowd, Trump repeatedly defended his own mental health, warned against his own impeachment and struggled to pronounce words.
Here are some of the wildest moments of Trump’s descent:
Defending his mental health
Following the scathing indictment on his fitness to lead in the anonymous New York Times op-ed, Trump was eager to point out that he hadn’t “lost it.”
“One after another – ‘Donald Trump… he’s lost it up here,’” he said, mimicking a media pundit as he pointed to his head. “You know it’s pretty tough, I stand up here giving speeches for an hour and a half, many times without notes, and then they say he’s lost it, and yet we have 25,000 people showing up to speeches.”
“And by the way, look at all the fake news back there,” he went on, eliciting a chorus of boos directed at journalists.
He complained that despite having beaten his opponents to become president, he still had to listen to critics asking: “‘Is he competent?’ I think I’m pretty competent right, don’t you think so?”
The rebel official within his administration who penned the anonymous New York Times op-ed was clearly on his mind.
But he couldn't articulate that.
The Times should investigate itself
Trump repeated his demand that the anonymous author of the editorial, whose identity was kept secret by the Times, should be exposed for “national security” reasons. And who better than New York Times reporters to dig into the story?
"For the sake of our national security, The New York Times should publish his name at once," Trump said. "I think their reporters should go and investigate who he is. That would actually be a good story."
Despite being clearly roiled by the disloyalty, Trump insisted the op-ed had “backfired.”
"Unelected, deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself," he said.
Impeachment will turn the U.S. into a “third world country”
On speculation he could face impeachment for obstruction of justice and conspiring with a hostile foreign power, Trump’s defense was less than airtight: he’s doing a great job and the economy is good. He also said that if he were impeached, it would be the fault of his own supporters for not voting in the midterms.
“They like to use the 'impeach' word. Maxine Waters, 'We will impeach him.'” he said. “'But he didn't do anything wrong.' 'It doesn't matter, we will impeach him.' But I say, how do you impeach somebody that is doing a great job and has not done anything wrong? Our economy is good."
“I'll be the only President in history they'll say: ‘What a job he's done! By the way, we're impeaching him.’”
If he were impeached, he argued, “you have a country that's going to turn into a third world country” — because it would set a precedent where the opposing party would always seek to impeach the president. “If the opposite party becomes president… they will say 'We want to impeach him!' And you will impeach him. It is so ridiculous.”
Gettysburg was attacked by "fake news"
In a wild flourish, Trump compared himself to one of the greatest presidents in American history, saying the Gettysburg Address had also been excoriated by the “fake news media” back in 1863.
“You know when Abraham Lincoln made that Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech, you know he was ridiculed?" Trump said.
"And he was excoriated by the fake news. They had fake news then. They said it was a terrible, terrible speech."
"Fifty years after his death they said it may have been the greatest speech ever made in America," he continued. "I have a feeling that's going to happen with us. In different ways, that's going to happen with us."
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump greets the crowd as he arrives for his "Make America Great Again" rally in Billings, Montana U.S., September 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)