A routine event in the White House Roosevelt Room on Thursday afternoon to announce $16 billion in farm aid morphed into a verbal attack on the most powerful Democrat in Congress by the president, who also accused by name former top FBI officials of treason.
After announcing the agriculture assistance package in response to losses stemming from the U.S. trade war with China, President Donald Trump responded to questions from a small group of reporters.
The president spent much of the time criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying she had told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that she needed two weeks to understand the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal (USMCA).
“Pelosi does not understand the bill,” said Trump. “So she’s got to get up to snuff, learn the bill.”
Some of the queries during the 47-minute event dealt with his temperament in an Oval Office meeting the previous day, when a discussion with top Democrats from Capitol Hill about infrastructure funding ended quickly.
Trump insisted he was calm, “like I am right now.”
He did not, however, drop the subject.
Trump called on a number of aides in the Roosevelt Room to assert that he had remained calm and had not thrown a temper tantrum as Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer implied.
“You were very calm and very direct,” replied Mercedes Schlapp, the White House director of strategic communications.
“Very calm,” responded White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “I’ve seen both. And this was not angry and ranting.”
Three other White House officials Trump asked to bear witness echoed that sentiment.
Trump labeled Pelosi as crazy, said she had “lost it” and “has a lot of problems.” He termed as nasty the House speaker’s suggestion earlier in the day that the president’s family needed to stage an intervention because of his behavior.
“I’m an extremely stable genius,” Trump asserted at one point.
Minutes later, Pelosi tweeted:
During the impromptu news conference, a reporter asked Trump if he wanted to be impeached by the opposition Democrats in the House, as Pelosi asserted.
“I don’t know that anybody wants to be impeached,” he replied.
Trump again criticized ongoing investigations of him by Congress, lamenting that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his two-year probe did not end questions about links between the president’s 2016 campaign and Russians.
A reporter asked Trump to name the perceived political opponents he has accused of treason for launching investigations into those who worked on his campaign.
Trump responded by naming, among others, former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Trump said “probably people higher than that” also committed treason, but he did not elaborate.
Those found guilty of treason in the United States face possible life imprisonment or execution.
Asked whether he would approve sending more troops to the Middle East to respond to threats from Iran, Trump noted he was holding a meeting on the subject later in the afternoon, but said, “I don’t think we’ll need it.”
Trump emphasized, though, that “nobody’s going to mess with us.”
Trump also termed Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei “very dangerous” but quickly added that the company, which now faces severe restrictions in the United States, could be part of a trade deal with China.
Trump also indicated he would sign a bipartisan $19.1 billion disaster relief bill, even though it does not include border funding that the president had demanded.
“We’ll take care of the immigration later,” said Trump.