As the blades of the Marine One helicopter whirred behind him Friday, President Trump aired grievances and spewed insults at a wide array of targets as he stood on the South Lawn of the White House preparing for an overseas trip to Paris.
Trump took aim at former president Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the husband of one of his top aides, Democrats in Congress, two prominent White House reporters, elections officials in Florida, elections officials in Arizona, the FBI and a federal judge in Montana, among others.
Taking one question after another from reporters, Trump immediately pivoted when he was asked about Michelle Obama writing in her new memoir that she would never forgive Trump for advancing the false birther claim about her husband’s citizenship that endangered her family.
Trump said that the former first lady was no doubt paid a lot of money to write her book, but he reserved his harshest words for her husband: “I’ll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military. I’ll never forgive him for what he did in many other ways, which I’ll talk to you about in the future.”
Trump, who touted his own buildup of the military, appeared to be referring to cuts in military spending that were required by the 2011 Budget Control Act backed by congressional Republicans and Democrats and signed into law by Obama. The 2010 tea party class of Republicans were intent on cutting the nation’s deficit and endorsed the spending cuts to defense and domestic programs.
Clinton’s name came up during the questions as Trump was insisting that there was no collusion between Russia and his campaign in 2016, an issue being investigated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Trump said he won the election not because of illegal coordination with the Russian government but because he was the better candidate and Clinton “didn’t know what the hell she was doing.”
A far less frequent target of Trump’s public ire — but one who was also hit Friday — is George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. In his latest criticism of Trump, George Conway co-wrote an opinion piece this week asserting that Trump’s installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general was unconstitutional.
Asked what he thought of the piece, Trump said, “He’s just trying to get publicity for himself.” He added: “Why don’t you ask Kellyane that question? She knows him better.”
At another point, Trump again bashed congressional Democrats, accusing them of standing in the way of immigration laws he wants to pass.
Trump took a fresh shot at CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta, whose press credential was yanked this week after Acosta’s persistent questioning of Trump at a news conference.
“I think Jim Acosta is a very unprofessional man,” Trump said. “He’s a very unprofessional guy.”
Trump also denied that a video of the episode tweeted by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had been altered. Experts said the video of the news conference, in which Acosta is seen rebuffing a press aide’s attempt to take a microphone out of his hands, was changed to exaggerate the aggressiveness of Acosta’s actions.
“Nobody manipulated it. Give me a break,” Trump said. “All that is a close-up . . . It wasn’t doctored. They gave a close-up view.”
The president also took aim another reporter who’s not on his favorites list, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. “You talk about somebody who’s a loser,” Trump said of Ryan. “She doesn’t know what she’s doing . . . She’s very nasty.”
Ryan later responded on Twitter, writing: “I love this country and have the most respect for the Office of the President. I will continue to ask the questions that affect America, all of America.”
During his comments with reporters, Trump appeared agitated that Senate races in Florida and Arizona that at first appeared to be Republican victories had narrowed as votes were still being counted.
“What’s going on in Florida is a disgrace,” Trump said, not ruling out a federal role in a recount in the Senate race between Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D). “He easily won, but every hour he seems to be going down,” Trump said of Scott’s vote percentage. “I think people have to look at it very cautiously.”
As for Arizona, where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema took a lead over Republican Martha McSally on Thursday as counting of mail-in ballots continued, Trump said Sinema’s votes seemed to be coming “out of the wilderness.”
Trump later tweeted on the subject, also referring to Georgia, where the tally in the governor’s race has narrowed. “You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia — but the Election was on Tuesday?” Trump wrote. “Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!”
On the South Lawn, Trump also took aim at a list of officials who have left the FBI since his arrival, including former director James B. Comey, whom Trump fired last year.
“You have a whole list of people,” he said. “There’s a lot of crooked stuff going on.”
He also slammed a federal judge in Montana who temporarily blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s oil sands fields with Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries.
“It was a political decision made by a judge,” Trump said. “I think it’s a disgrace.”
Trump continued to take aim at other targets even after departing the White House.
On Twitter, he attacked Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), calling him “Jeff Flake(y)” and a “weak and ineffective guy.”
Flake on Thursday said he wants a vote on a bill that would protect the work of special counsel Mueller with the arrival of Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, who has been critical of Mueller’s probe in the past.
Trump said Flake was doing so “to protect his future after being unelectable in Arizona for the ‘crime’ of doing a terrible job!” Flake is retiring from the Senate after this year.