After being pent up for days, Trump lets 'er rip – Politico


He predicted that the U.S. would pull out of Syria “like, very soon.” He said President Barack Obama left him a “gift” of judicial vacancies. And he praised actress Roseanne Barr for the success of her rebooted show, exclaiming, “Look at her ratings!”

After staying out of public sight for four days, President Donald Trump on Thursday traveled to Ohio to boost his infrastructure proposal. But the event smacked of the campaign rallies that give the president a mood boost and allow him to reconnect with the core supporters crucial to maintaining control of Congress in the November midterms.

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The president barely stayed on script, hitting on immigration, Obamacare, North Korea, NASA, veterans and a slew of other topics, as he returned to campaign form, even as his White House is roiled by unprecedented turnover and an intensifying Russia probe from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump delivered the speech at a training site for members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which was intended to highlight efforts to address issues in U.S. infrastructure.

“In recent years, Americans have watched as Washington spent trillions and trillions of dollars building up foreign countries,” Trump told the crowd, “while allowing our own country’s infrastructure to fall into a state of total disrepair.”

Speaking before thousands of supporters in Richfield, Trump veered into familiar riffs, bemoaning the “fake news” media, lashing out at his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, and touting the successes of the massive GOP tax reform package. But the president also broke significant new ground, threatening to put a pause on the newly reached trade deal with South Korea to use as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea,” Trump floated Thursday. His administration recently unveiled the agreement, struck in principle by U.S. and South Korean negotiators earlier this month. The announcement marked Trump’s first successful conversion on efforts to revamp major international trade deals, an issue he made central to his 2016 presidential campaign and his early tenure in the White House.

The president, who shocked the international community by agreeing to meet directly with Kim earlier this month, voiced optimism that a peaceful compromise could be reached with the North Korean leader while dangling the possibility that the U.S. will withdraw from discussions altogether. “If it’s no good, we’re walking,” he said of the talks. “And if it’s good, we will embrace it.”

Trump also detoured for an extended stretch into military efforts in Syria, forecasting that he would pull U.S. troops out of the region in the near future. “We’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” he said.

Just a day after announcing on Twitter that he would replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin with his presidential physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump said the decision to dismiss the Obama holdover came out of frustration with the efficiency of care for veterans.

“We’re going to have real choice,” Trump said. “That’s why I made some changes — because I wasn’t happy with the speed with which our veterans were taken care of. I wasn’t happy with it.”

Trump’s firing of Shulkin on social media ended weeks of speculation that the official was on his way out, as unease reportedly crept in the West Wing about the possibility of further staffing changes. The dismissal came just days after White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News that Trump had “confidence” in Shulkin and that the agency chief had “done some great things at the VA” — making him the latest administration official to receive praise from the West Wing shortly before their firing.

As White House officials have dealt with a spree of high-profile departures — the exits of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn — Trump’s lawyers inside and outside of the West Wing have continued to grapple with developments in Mueller’s probe and legal actions from adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

While White House officials have said the president denies Daniels’ claim that she had an affair with the president in 2006, Trump remained silent on the controversy during the event in Ohio.

The president, a former reality-TV host and an avid fan of cable television, found time in the speech to lavish praise on actress Roseanne Barr, whose Trump-friendly reboot of her iconic comedy drew over 18 million views recently in its debut.

“Even look at Roseanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings! Look at her ratings!” Trump said, confirming reports he had reached out to the actress.

He added: “They were unbelievable. Over 18 million people. And it was about us. They haven’t figured it out. The fake news hasn’t quite figured it out yet. They have not figured it out. So that was great. And they haven’t figured it out. But they will, and when they do, they’ll become much less fake.”



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