President Trump’s Monday morning press conference went off the rails, with him berating multiple female reporters, claiming he has dirt on an unnamed Democratic senator, and ranting about the media.
The president appeared in the Rose Garden presser, flanked by trade-focused staffers and cabinet members, to announce his new trilateral trade at a White House press conference, boasting the agreement will turn “North America into a manufacturing powerhouse.”
But when the presser opened up for questions, the president returned to his usual combativeness with members of the media.
After calling on ABC reporter Cecilia Vega, who paused as she stood up to ask her question, Trump decided to mock the female reporter.
“She’s shocked that I picked on her. She’s, like, in a state of shock,” he said, earning laughs from the crowd.
“I’m not, thank you, Mr. President,” the White House reporter responded.
Trump, seemingly misunderstanding the female reporter, hit back again—this time directly insulting her intelligence.
“That’s ok, I know you're not thinking. You never do,” the president said.
Shocked by the comment, Vega said, “I’m sorry?” while he dismissively told her to “Go ahead.”
When she asked about reports that the White House is limiting the scope of the investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Trump objected, telling Vega he would prefer to discuss his trade policy first.
This was not the first time Vega had a tense run-in with Trump.
In July, Vega attempted to grill the president about whether he believes the Russian government is continuing to attempt to interference with U.S. elections.
“Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?” Vega asked.
“Thank you very much, no,” Trump responded.
The president responded no again before ignoring her and answering another reporter’s question.
Vega later confirmed on Twitter that the president was looking directly at her and had heard her questions.
Following Monday morning’s press conference, Vega only had one thing to say about Trump’s attack on her: “A news conference means you get to ask whatever question you want to ask. #FirstAmendment.”
Elsewhere in the zany press conference, the president shut down another female reporter for inquiring about the Kavanaugh probe before he has satisfied with the amount of questions regarding his trade agreement.
“Mr. President, now that you have answered several questions on trade I would like to turn to Mr. Kavanaugh,” CNN reporter Kaitlin Collins began.
She was, however, quickly interrupted by the president. “Don’t do that,” Trump said. “Do you have a question on trade?”
When she continued her Kavanaugh question, Trump dismissed her, adding “Excuse me, don’t do that,” before turning to another reporter and demanding Collins yield the microphone.
Like her ABC counterpart, Collins has previously drawn Trump’s ire, even being “disinvited” and barred from attending Rose Garden event in July after asking the president a question about his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who was recently indicted as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Despite the reluctance, Trump eventually did comment on his Supreme Court nominee—in response to a question from a male reporter—by divulging his that he was “surprised” by Kavanaugh’s discussion of his high-school drinking habits during last week’s Senate judiciary committee hearing.
“I watched a man saying that he did have difficulty as a young man with drink,” Trump explained. “I mean, he talked about things that happened when he drinks—this is not a man that said… that he was perfect with respect to alcohol.” (Kavanaugh denied ever having a drinking problem, saying that he merely “liked beer” and still likes beer.)
The president quickly added that while Kavanaugh might have had a problem with alcohol, he does not. In fact, Trump admitted his aversion to liquor is “one of his only good traits.”
“I’ve never had alcohol. I just, for whatever reason,” he said. “Can you imagine, if I had, what a mess I’d be? I’d be the world’s worst.”
Despite his thoughts on Kavanaugh’s drinking, the president reiterated a conservative talking point that it is “very unfair” to discuss his teenage habits, adding that there have been “no bad reports” regarding Kavanaugh for a quarter century.
Following this statement, and several more answered Kavanaugh questions, Collins tried again.
“Mr. President, just to wrap up, do you promise to release the FBI report,” the CNN White House reporter began, before being interrupted by the president one more.
“You know what? You’ve had enough. You’ve had enough,” Trump yelled before turning to another reporter.
In a deflection from the constant questions about his Supreme Court pick, Trump dropped a bomb: He claimed to be aware of dirt on a Democratic senator in a “somewhat compromising” situation.
“I happen to know some United States senators. One who is on the other side who is pretty aggressive. I’ve seen that person in very bad situations, okOK? I’’ve seen that person in very, very bad situations,” Trump said. “Somewhat compromising. And you know, I think it’s very unfair to bring up things like this.”
The veiled threat, which was made without naming the senator or providing any evidence, came in response to a question about whether Kavanaugh should be interviewed by the FBI.
When pressed about who the lawmaker is, Trump declined to answer, hinting he would save it for his memoir.
“I think I’ll save it for a book like everybody else,” Trump responded. “I’m not giving it to you.”
At another point, the president railed more broadly against his favorite target: the media.
“I think the press has treated me unbelievably unfairly,” he said, adding he had hoped for more positive news after the 2016 election. “They got worse. They’re worse now than ever. They’re loco, but that's ok.”
As if anticipating the impending backlash for using the Spanish word for crazy during a press conference on a new trade deal with Mexico, the president added, in Trumpian fashion: “I used that word because of the fact we made a deal with Mexico.”’