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President Trump discusses coronavirus concerns and testing, political divisiveness, and the 2020 race with moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
President Trump, speaking at a Fox News Town Hall in Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pa., on Thursday evening, openly suggested that the new Democratic front-runner’s repeated gaffes could be a sign of a competency issue — honing a line of attack that Republicans are expected to repeatedly deploy if Biden becomes his party’s nominee.
Trump also wasted little time in criticizing ex-rival Elizabeth Warren’s decision to drop out of the race only after Super Tuesday, saying she may have sabotaged Bernie Sanders’ struggling presidential bid by siphoning the progressive vote.
The setting was more casual and conversational than Trump’s boisterous rallies, and afforded the commander-in-chief an opportunity to connect directly with voters on camera.
“Bernie Sanders would have won five, six, seven states,” Trump remarked. “When you look at it, she did him no favors. That was not a good friendship. We started to see that during the debates, by the way. It became unhinged.”
Trump went on to argue that Biden was “damaged” by the impeachment process that implicated his son Hunter in apparent overseas corruption while Biden was vice president. “They aimed at Trump and they took Biden down,” the president said.
“Here’s a guy, who didn’t have a job, unfortunately sadly the military was a very sad experience for him — he goes out and gets $3 million plus $183,000 a month to be a board member of a company that a lot of people said was corrupt,” he continued. “Just as bad, China — I just made a great China deal … His son walks out a China for a billion-and-a-half dollars for a fund.”
The Super Tuesday results, Trump said, had come as a surprise — especially given what he suggested were Biden’s possible cognitive impairments.
“I’m all set for Bernie, communist,” Trump began. “And then we have this crazy thing that happened on Tuesday, which he thought was Thursday. But he also said 150 million people were killed with guns, and that he was running for the U.S. Senate — there’s something going on there.”
The president noted that he hadn’t spoken to former President Obama since the 2018 funeral for President George H.W. Bush, in part because of lingering animosity about that administration.
“I sat next to him, I said, ‘Hello,'” Trump said, describing the funeral. “Then I said, ‘Goodbye’ That’s about it. I didn’t like the job he did. I didn’t like the job he and Biden did. I didn’t like the position he put us in. I didn’t like what he did to our military. … Right now we have more ammunition than ever before.”
Concerning health care, Trump said he was “most disappointed” that he hasn’t been able to “sell what a great job we’ve done.” The president touted his administration’s termination of the Obamacare “individual mandate,” and said plans were now less expensive — but that the “carcass of Obamacare” remains a problem.
“Without the whole thing with the individual mandate, it’s a whole different ball game,” Trump said. He promised that the GOP would come up with an alternative, but didn’t offer specifics other than that pre-existing conditions would be covered.
Anchor Bret Baier noted that Trump, when campaigning, had promised to erase the national debt within eight years — but nevertheless had approved $4.6 trillion in new debt already.
“I’ll always talk about it, because to me it’s very important,” Trump said. “The good thing about the debt is we’re paying almost no interest.” He added that more cuts would be coming but that it was crucially important to fund the military in the meantime.
“They aimed at Trump and they took Biden down.”
— President Trump, referring to the impeachment process
The town hall covered an array of other topics, including stock market turbulence and deregulation. Out of the gate, Trump defended his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying his decision to limit travel from China had averted a broader domestic crisis.
“I think people are viewing us as doing a very good job,” Trump told a questioner. “This started in China. How it started, is a question. … It’s gonna all work out. Everyone has to be calm.”
The president pointed to something of a silver lining in the episode: “People are now staying in the United States, spending their money in the United States, and I like that. You know, I’ve been after that for a long time. I’ve been saying, let’s stay in the U.S., spend your money here. It’s sort of enforced doing that.”
Trump later noted that he has always disliked the concept of shaking hands: “If there was ever a time you could convince people not to shake hands, this could be it,” he mused, before lamenting that politicians unfortunately are required to shake some hands.
Responding to the threatening statements directed at Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on Wednesday by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Trump said the comments amounted to a call for physical violence.
“If a Republican did what Schumer did, they’d be in jail right now,” Trump said to applause.
The media, Trump argued, was “a part of the Democrat Party” to a “large extent” — and “we have to fight back.”
He gave a similar answer when asked by a voter how he would “bring us together.” The voter noted that a relative had banished Trump supporters from the family.
“Success” as a country is the solution, Trump said, suggesting that Democrats would come to the bargaining table, if not the dinner table, if he won reelection.
At the same time, Trump said, “when they hit us, we have to hit back.”
Hours before the town hall, Trump took his trademarked parting shots at Warren and Mike Bloomberg, whom Trump likened to an incompetent, undersized Darth Vader-style character from the 1987 parody “Spaceballs.”
Bloomberg had compared Trump to Vader with a video from the movie “Star Wars.”
“Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren, who was going nowhere except into Mini Mike’s head, just dropped out of the Democrat Primary…THREE DAYS TOO LATE,” Trump wrote, referring to Warren’s previous claims of Native American ancestry. “She cost Crazy Bernie, at least, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas. Probably cost him the nomination! Came in third in Mass.”
The Fox News Town Hall was Trump’s first town hall of the campaign season. It was also Trump’s first discussion with Baier and Martha MacCallum since interviews in June 2018 and April 2017.
Fox News Channel will present an encore presentation of the Trump Town Hall at 11 p.m. ET.