Trump addresses relationship with Congress, soldier deaths in Niger and more
President Donald Trump touched on a slew of subjects Monday at his hastily-arranged news conference in the Rose Garden. Here are seven:
His former top strategist Steve Bannon’s “war on Republicans:”
Bannon, who left the White House in August, has said he will back Republican candidates in the 2018 elections who do not support the president’s agenda. Trump, who remains close to Bannon, said he supports Senate incumbents, who he considers friends.
“Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing,” he said. “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we [can] talk him out of that, because frankly, they’re great people.”
His relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Trump said he had a close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite his flurry of tweets in August blaming the Kentucky Republican for Congress’ failure to pass a replacement to the Affordable Care Act.
“We are probably now — despite what we read, we are probably now, I think — at least as far as I'm concerned — closer than ever before. And the relationship is very good.”
His response to soldiers killed in Niger in west Africa
Trump wrote letters to the families of the fallen soldiers this weekend and said that he planned to call the families soon.
“I felt very, very badly about that,” he said. “I always feel badly. The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens. Soldiers are killed. It's a very difficult thing.”
He also said many of his predecessors, including former President Barack Obama, did not call families of fallen soldiers, though he later walked that back, saying he didn’t know if he did. Obama often spoke about the difficulty of calling families.
Congress’ attempt to replace Obamacare:
Trump backed off previous criticism that McConnell couldn’t get health care passed after seven years of complaining about it. Instead, Trump gave McConnell a vote of confidence. Trump said the reality is they’ve been working on the issue only six months. McConnell also noted that Obama didn’t sign the Affordable Care Act until his second year in office.
“This man is going to get it done, OK?” he said. “And I think get it done long before anybody else. And I think it’s going to be a great health care.”
His relationship with Democrats
Trump joked that he might not know whether he can work with Democrats for at least seven years. He said he likes the concept of bipartisanship, but that the Democrats are “obstructing.”
“I hope to have a relationship. If we don't, we don't,” Trump said. “I mean, we have races coming up, in — as you know, in — a year from now. … I can say this: If we get taxes approved, we're going to do unbelievably well.”
The bizarre sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats on Cuba
Trump amped up the rhetoric against Havana, saying Cuba was responsible for the attacks that have affected as many as 25 people. The comments represent a departure from the State Department, where officials won’t say whether they think Cuba is responsible.
“I do believe Cuba is responsible,” Trump said.
The situation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
Trump stood by his previous statement that his administration is doing a great job in Puerto Rico despite the lack of electricity, food and water on certain parts of the island. But, he acknowledged, that it’s been difficult because it’s an island and was in “very poor shape before the hurricanes ever hit.”
“You look at the governor of Puerto Rico, he himself has said we’ve done an outstanding job. And most people have said we’ve done an outstanding job. But Puerto Rico’s a very tough one.”
Trump said former FEMA Director James Lee Witt gave his administration an A+ on its response to the hurricanes despite withering criticism from some Puerto Ricans.