Trump on North Korea: ‘This Is a Whole New Ballgame’
President Trump threatened North Korea, thanked Russia, and scolded the Senate majority leader in a set of press conferences on Thursday.
“He has disrespected our country greatly,” Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to collected remarks from pool reporters on the scene. “He has said things that are horrific. And with me he’s not getting away with it. He got away with it for a long time, between him and his family. He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ballgame.”
This week, the president has issued numerous threats against the nation, including an improvised set of remarks on Wednesday during which he said the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” should the regime continue to threaten the United States with a nuclear strike.
On Thursday, Trump did not shy away from these off-the-cuff comments but rather raised the stakes once again.
In one of two exchanges with reporters Thursday afternoon, the president said that his prior remarks were maybe not “tough enough.”
His bellicose language already elicited a response from North Korea which claimed that it was drafting plans to fire four missiles near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. Instead of moving to de-escalate the rhetoric, Trump doubled down.
"Let's see what he does with Guam," Trump told reporters during the second exchange. "He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before."
He added: "You'll see, you'll see. And he'll see.”
Trump’s comments on the recent move by Russian President Vladimir Putin to expel U.S. diplomats from his country were even more curious.
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump told reporters. “There’s no reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save money.”
The president also weighed in on a recent FBI raid of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home, an action which has indicated that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Trump and his associates is intensifying. The White House has repeatedly attempted to distance the president’s campaign from Manafort who served as chairman for several months and worked to corral delegates for the Republican National Convention.
“I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever,” Trump said of the raid. “I know Mr. Manafort. Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him.”
He went on to say that he was “surprised to see it” and that Manafort is a “very decent man.” The raid was reportedly conducted late last month at Manafort’s home near Washington D.C., just a day after Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators.
The president also reiterated his disappointment in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and even went on to say that his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was doing a better job—a signal of escalating tensions between Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.
“Elaine is doing a very good job,” Trump said. “We’re very proud of Elaine as secretary of Transportation, as you know. She’s doing a very good job. I’m very disappointed in Mitch. If he gets these bills passed, I’ll be very happy with him and I’ll be the first to admit it.”
During Trump’s vacation at his New Jersey golf club, he has taken the opportunity to use his Twitter feed to bash McConnell, particularly for his inability to deliver on a repeal and replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.
“Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!” the president tweeted Thursday morning.
He also used the rare press conference to reassert his stance on banning transgender members of the military, a policy that was announced on Twitter which is now facing lawsuits even before its implementation.
“It’s been a very difficult situation and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it,” Trump said after remarking that he had great respect for the community. “As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”