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United Nations General Assembly 2018

This series decodes deals, political moves, and gossip at the world’s biggest political summit.

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The craziest moments from Donald Trump’s big UNGA press conference

By Heather Timmons

Donald Trump gave one of the longest, most chaotic press conferences of his tumultuous presidency Wednesday (Sept. 26) at a midtown New York hotel near the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

He veered from topic to topic (sometimes in the same sentence), said multiple things that were not true, and made a host of outrageous and sometimes insulting statements, including admitting he might have obstructed justice in the FBI investigation into Russian meddling. The 81 minute question-and-answer session occurred in front of an audience of dozens of foreign correspondents in New York to cover the UN meeting. The entire press conference is here, but allow us to present the highlights.

He showed up early. Trump has been consistently late for his United Nations duties, leaving world leaders waiting for about 15 minutes when he chaired the UN Security Council earlier in the day, and showing up so late Sept. 25 that another speaker took his slot. But for a roomful of reporters, Trump arrived a few minutes ahead of the 5pm start time. “Lots of media here!” he said cheerfully as he kicked off.

Insults for assault victims. Trump repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, insulted the women who have come forward to accuse Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and the multiple women who had accused him of sexual assault. He called the accusations against Kavanaugh a “big conjure,” a “con,” “false,” and asked of the women “Why did they wait?” At one point, he blamed the women’s parents for not reporting their daughters’ assaults to the authorities.

No man is safe from these sorts of false accusations, Trump said, telling a male reporter who asked about the topic, “We could say it about you.”

Admitting his own assault charges have colored his views on Kavanaugh. Asked about the multiple women who have accused him of assault, Trump said, “It does impact my opinion. You know why? Because I’ve had a lot of false charges made against me.” Sometimes, he said, “people want fame, they want money.”

He may abandon Kavanaugh anyway. Trump said the reason he has stuck with Kavanaugh is that people have been telling him “for 10 years” that Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court. He could, however, replace Kavanaugh with a woman, he said, in what is likely a nod to Amy Coney Barrett, an appeals court judge.

Mr. Kurd: Trump pointed to a journalist in the crowd and said, “Yes, please, Mr. Kurd, go ahead.” The reporter, Rahim Rashidi, who works for a Kurdish television station, asked a question about US aid to the ethnic group. #MrKurd was soon trending on Twitter. Rashidi was reportedly thrilled, not insulted.

Admitting he might have obstructed justice. Trump wasn’t asked directly about the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, but he brought it up anyway. ”I’m in Wisconsin, I’m in Michigan. We’re not doing well, let me call the Russians to help. Does anyone believe that?” he asked.

Still, he admitted that how he “fought back” during the investigation might constitute obstruction.

Trashing Justin Trudeau. Trump hasn’t hid his disdain for the Canadian prime minister in recent months, as the two countries negotiate an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Today, he said he had turned down a request to meet with Trudeau, and said the US doesn’t like the country’s “negotiating style” or their “representative,” a personal slam that may be aimed at foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, who has been spearheading negotiations for Canada.

Letting Rod Rosenstein off the hook. Trump was due to speak with the deputy US attorney general tomorrow (Sept. 27) about Rosenstein’s future. But the meeting may be postponed, Trump said, so he can watch scheduled Senate hearings on Kavanaugh and his accusers. Despite reports that Rosenstein might be fired, Trump said, “my preference is to let him stay.”

Laughing with me. Trump’s boast in front of the United Nations yesterday about his accomplished presidency sparked laughter inside the General Assembly. The world leaders in attendance weren’t laughing at Trump, he insisted, “they were laughing with me.” Any other reports are “fake news,” he said. “People had a good time with me, we were doing it together. We had a good time.”

The reaction in the US to Trump’s press conference, predictably, split along partisan lines. “In Dumpster Fire Presser, Trump Admits His Own Sexual Assault Is Why He Stands With Kavanaugh,” wrote Politics USA, a left-leaning website. Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived Trump press aide, called it “great.” Trump was “New York Funny Trump,” he said.