Just a few hours after he suggested that perhaps America should follow China’s lead with the whole “president for life” thing, President Donald Trump took the stage to tell some jokes at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner, an event intended to honor the free press in Washington, D.C.
Unlike the widely-televised White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which Trump decided to skip last year, there are no cameras allowed inside the white-tie Gridiron event. So while we don’t have the benefit of seeing video of the president’s performance, we do have the White House pool report—as well as eyewitness accounts—to give us a sense of what went down.
In his remarks Saturday night, Trump acknowledged that he’s not known for self-deprecating humor by suggesting his staff warned him it could be a problem. “I told them not to worry. Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do,” the president joked.
Trump also excused his late arrival by suggesting that Jared Kushner couldn’t get through security. He said he offered Attorney General Jeff Sessions a ride to the event but he “recused himself,” belying a very real concern the president has expressed in the past.
“I won’t rule out talks with Kim Jong Un,” Trump said, per Axios. “As far as risks with talking with a mad man—that’s his concern, not mine.“
He combined an attack on CNN with a shot at his former chief adviser, saying, “It’s been a very tough year for CNN. They’ve lost a tremendous amount of credibility this year. And your best reporter, Steve Bannon. That guy leaked more than the Titanic. Boy, did he leak.”
According to Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn, Trump “humiliated” his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, who accompanied him to the event. He was likely referring to a joke Trump made about his recent spate of White House departures. “So many people have been leaving the White House. It’s invigorating since you want turnover. I like chaos. It really is good,” he said. “Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?”
For what it’s worth, Trump did reportedly wrap up his speech by thanking the members of the media in attendance for all they do “to support and sustain our democracy,” adding, “I mean that.”
It appears that the president did successfully find a way to make self-deprecating jokes about himself. But in the process, he made light of some of the most disturbing and concerning issues plaguing his presidency, from the prospect of nuclear war to the lack of security clearances for his top advisors and even the precarious nature of his own marriage.