Former US President Donald Trump’s appearance at a CNN town hall was the first time in years that he has faced prolonged questioning from a news outlet outside the friendly confines of conservatives. media.
Trump’s participation in the public forum on Wednesday comes as he turns his focus to a potential 2024 general election rematch with Democrat Joe Biden.
The audience, made up of Republicans and independents, was overwhelmingly in favor of Trump and laughed and cheered as he made his points.
“I love you,” Trump told the crowd at the end.
Here’s what Trump said:
Suggesting that the US government should default on the debt
As the battle to raise the US debt ceiling has analysts warning of “catastrophic” consequences for the global economy if Washington fails, Trump has suggested it won’t happen unless Democrats agree to “big ” spending cuts.
“Maybe it’s better that we do it because you do it. Because we have to save this country. Our country is being destroyed by stupid people, by very stupid people.
“It’s psychological more than anything. And it could be bad, it could be nothing, maybe a bad week, or a bad day, who knows? Trump said.
“I said to the Republicans out there, congressmen, senators, if they don’t give you more cuts, you have to do a default.”
Questions about a sexual abuse case
Trump’s appearance came a day after a New York jury found him guilty of sexually abusing a woman nearly 30 years ago and defaming her when she spoke publicly about it.
Jurors awarded columnist E Jean Carroll $5m in damages. The jury rejected her rape claim and instead found Trump responsible for a lesser degree of sexual abuse. Trump denied this, saying he did not meet Carroll at a department store in 1996 and did not know him, and said he plans to appeal the ruling.
Trump, when asked by CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins about the verdict, said his poll numbers were up and repeated his claims that he didn’t know Carroll, even though a photo showed them together. .
“I don’t know him. I didn’t meet him. I don’t know who he is,” he said, calling him a “whack job”.
Treatment of women
Collins asked Trump about his comments in the infamous Access Hollywood video in which he bragged about grabbing women’s genitals without asking for permission. The video was played at trial and Collins asked him if he stood by what he said.
Trump defended his comments saying he allowed women to take their genitals without their consent because he was a star.
“I can’t take that back because it’s true,” Trump said.
Repeated election claims
Trump, with his first question from Collins about why he should be re-elected, immediately began by repeating his baseless claims of electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Striking a more subdued tone than he usually uses on stage before cheering supporters, Trump called it a “rigged election” and an “embarrassment” before being cut off by Collins, corrected his statements and asked him to publicly acknowledge his loss to Biden.
Trump did not, immediately returning to his false claims.
Defense of the January 6 insurrection
For more than two years, Trump has been asked if he regrets his actions that day.
The former president quickly began bragging about the size of the crowd he was addressing before some began marching on the US Capitol and said those in attendance believed the election was “rigged”.
“There they are proud. They are there with love in their heart. That’s unbelievable and it’s a beautiful day,” Trump said.
Collins pressed Trump on why he didn’t ask his supporters to leave the Capitol or send aid to disperse the protesters, and he deflected, trying to blame former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He, at one point, pulled out printed copies of his Twitter posts that day where he finally, hours after the start of the attack on the Capitol, asked his supporters to leave.
He said he would be inclined, if re-elected as president, to pardon most of those convicted of their roles in violence. More than 1,000 people have been charged and more than 600 have been convicted so far.
There are no answers in Ukraine
Trump repeated his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him “a smart man”, but said he “made a bad mistake” to invade Ukraine. Trump claimed, without evidence or explanation, that if he had been president, Putin would not have invaded Ukraine. He said he had “a good relationship” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, referring to his 2019 impeachment after pressuring Zelenskyy for “a favor” while withholding military aid.
Trump would not answer a question about whether he would continue to send US aid to Ukraine to continue fighting against Russian aggression, and he would not answer a question about who he wants to win the war, simply saying, “I want everyone to stop dying. .”
Storage of classified documents
Trump defended his storage of the most secret and confidential government documents at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago, which is now the subject of a Justice Department investigation.
“I have every right to do this. I’m not hiding it,” Trump said.
Trump noted that other presidents and vice presidents keep documents after leaving office but did not mention that he refused to turn over documents even after receiving a subpoena.
Trump, responding to a question about the U.S. Supreme Court overturning abortion rights last year, credited the appointment of three of the justices who joined the majority ruling, saying, “This is a It’s a big win and people are starting to understand it now.”
He repeated the false claim that abortion rights supporters want to “kill a baby” in the ninth month of pregnancy or even after birth. The claim was based on a misinterpretation of a Senate vote. Trump also dodged questions about whether, if re-elected president, he would sign a national abortion ban.
“All I’m going to do is negotiate to make people happy,” he said, when asked if he would sign a federal abortion ban. He repeatedly said he would “do what’s right” – without specifying what that would be.