Donald Trump’s Singapore press conference, following his meeting with Kim Jong Un regarding an agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, was, as could be expected, bizarre. The most striking fact from the meeting is that the White House acknowledges that the U.S. made new concessions while North Korea only reaffirmed old promises.
If the goal of public speaking is to fire up a crowd and keep them excited, Trump is a pro. If the goal is to actually convey a coherent message, he once again fell far short of the mark. This press conference, which is shared in full on the White House website, is no exception.
Here are some of the more bizarre moments from the event.
1. My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time, under very strong, strong circumstance.
This sounds like a participant describing speed dating. How well does that usually work out?
2. “To this day, never ended. But now we can all have hope that it will soon end. And it will. It will soon end.”
POTUS hopes, therefore it must come true.
3. “Chairman Kim and I just signed a joint statement in which he reaffirmed his ‘unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.'”
This line is particularly excellent because it’s one in which the President of the United States admits that his big agreement involves only reaffirmation of existing promises from the other party.
4. “Our eyes are wide open, but peace is always worth the effort, especially in this case.”
Peace is always worth the effort. Except, of course, with our existing allies.
5. “And I know for a fact, as soon as he arrives, he’s going to start a process that’s going to make a lot of people very happy and very safe.” Later: “In fact, when he lands — which is going to be shortly — I think that he will start that process right away.”
Trump knows it for a fact, then he only thinks it. This is, of course, because to him, both mean the same thing.
6. “So it’s an honor to be with everybody today. The media — this is a big gathering of media, I will say. It makes me feel very uncomfortable.”
Please, tell us how big your crowd is again.
7. “Well, he is very talented.”
This wouldn’t be a bizarre compliment at all, if it wasn’t in response to a reporter asking how Trump can be comfortable complimenting Kim when he “…has killed family members, has starved his own people, is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier.”
This is the President admitting that the agreement isn’t for verifiable or irreversible denuclearization.
9. “Yeah, we’ll be verifying. It will be verified.”
This was in response to a request for a specific timetable and plans for verifying that North Korea follows through with the promised denuclearization.
10. “Well, it’s going to be achieved by having a lot of people there, and as we develop a certain trust.”
This is the answer that eventually surfaced. The verification process is going to be trust and “having a lot of people there.”
11. “Yeah, go ahead. Be nice. Be respectful.”
This is to CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Why does Trump think he’s owed respect by the very media he loves to bash?
12. “[Kim] actually mentioned the fact that they proceeded down a path in the past, and, ultimately, as you know, nothing got done. In one case, they took billions of dollars — during the Clinton regime — took billions of dollars and nothing happened. That was a terrible thing, and he actually brought it up to me.
This is Trump explaining why he doesn’t believe he’s being scammed. He believes that North Korea will follow through with the agreement because they didn’t last time. That’s a solid reason to trust someone, right?
13. “So you never know. Right? We never know. But I’ll tell you what, we signed a very comprehensive document today, and I think most of you have been given that document.”
The ‘comprehensive’ document is a few paragraphs long and very vague, at least on the North Korean side.
14. “But they will be doing things, and I think he wants to do things. I think he wants to — you’d be very surprised.”
This is how Trump responds when asked if he and Kim discussed human rights violations in North Korea. Human rights? Well, he wants to do things. He’ll do things. The things will, apparently, be a surprise.
15. “Very smart. Very good negotiator. Wants to do the right thing.”
And…this is still Trump talking about human rights violations.
16. “Billions of dollars were given, and you know, the following day the nuclear program continued. But this is a much different time, and this is a much different President, in all fairness. This is very important to me.”
Trump pivots, leaving the human rights question to talk about something “very important to” him instead. It’s a repeat of his previous declaration: previous agreements with North Korea didn’t work out, but because Trump is President, this will go differently.
17. “Yes, John. Yes, John, go ahead. Oh, go ahead. I’m sorry, I thought you were John Roberts. I looked at you, you just like —” Later: “Oh, there’s John. I think — you know, you two guys look alike when the light is right on the — the hair is very similar. Let me see, who has better hair? He’s got pretty good hair, John, I hate to —”
What denuclearization? Hey, you two reporters kind of look alike, let’s discuss your hair.
18. “Okay. Whoever those people are. I cannot see you with all the lights, but you don’t look like either of the two. Yeah, go ahead. Sure. Go ahead.”
We’re going to keep discussing how reporters look and who they look like.
19. “And I also will be inviting Chairman Kim, at the appropriate time, to the White House. And he has accepted.
So, Kim has already accepted the invitation Trump will extend at some point in the future?
20. “But what we signed today was a lot of things included.”
It is four things.
21. “And then you have things that weren’t included that we got after the deal was signed. I’ve done that before in my life.”
How have those times worked out for the other party in the agreement?
22. “I believe it’s a rough situation over there. “
The President returns to the question of human rights in North Korea.
23. “We’ll be doing something on it. It’s rough. It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way. Not just there.”
Classic deflection — remind us that other people are also doing bad things, instead of discussing what you’ll do about the situation at hand.
24. “I think it will change. Yeah. I think it probably has to, but I think it will.”
Is Trump making a priority of addressing this? Well, he thinks it will probably change. Probably.
25. “Well, you know, scientifically, I’ve been watching and reading a lot about this, and it does take a long time to pull off complete denuclearization. It takes a long time. Scientifically, you have to wait certain periods of time, and a lot of things happen.”
This is Trump’s response to a reporter asking for a timetable. It scientifically takes a long time. You just have to scientifically wait.
26. “Well, you have a different administration. You have a different President. You have a different Secretary of State.”
Trump spends plenty of time in this press conference crowing about being superior to previous administrations. This time, he even managed to get a dig in at Hillary Clinton.
27. ” You have people that are — you know, it’s very important to them. And we get it done. The other groups, maybe it wasn’t a priority. I don’t think they could have done it if it was a priority, frankly. I don’t think they honestly could have done it even if it was a priority.
Continuing: it wasn’t as important to anyone else as it is to Trump, but they couldn’t have done it anyway.
28. “It would have been — for me, it would have been much easier if this were 10 years ago or 5 years ago. And I’m not just blaming President Obama.”
Aww, he almost made it through without mentioning Obama by name!
29. “I know a lot about airplanes; it’s very expensive. And I didn’t like it.”
This is given as a reason for stopping the military exercises POTUS refers to as ‘war games.’
30. “Well, we’ve gotten — you know, I’ve heard that. I mean, some of the people that — I don’t know, maybe they really mean it. I don’t always want to go against the press because I just don’t — especially not today, this is too important. But I noticed that some of the people were saying that the President has agreed to meet, he has given up so much. I gave up nothing.”
Trump was asked if North Korea gave any concessions in return for stopping these military exercises. He starts to respond with “we’ve gotten…..” then, unable to finish, interrupts himself to talk about the media, then changes the question to what he gave up, which he says is nothing. That’s not the same question.
31. “But I just wrote down some of the things we got.”
He definitely got something, and he wrote it down somewhere.
32. “Now I had 300 sanctions that I was getting ready to put on last week. And I said, you know, I can’t really put on sanctions when I’m meeting with — I thought it would be very disrespectful. Three hundred very big ones, powerful ones. And I said it would be disrespectful.”
He was totally going to pile on all 300 really big sanctions, but he thought that would be disrespectful.
33. “He wrote the best story about me with the Staten Island Ferry. And after that, he’s never written a good story.”
There is nothing more important than positive stories about Trump in the media. Oh wait, North Korea. That’s why we’re here, right?
34. “We have a big trade deficit with Canada, I was reading, where, oh, it’s actually a surplus. Not a surplus. It’s either 17, but it could actually be 100.”
Trump is repeating a previous false claim. Washington Post fact-checked this previously, explaining at length that not only is there a trade surplus, but that the report showing this comes from Trump’s own administration, and is published on the White House website.
35. “Anyway, I left and it was very friendly. When I got onto the plane, I think that Justin probably didn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions, and I see the television. And he’s giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States.”
Trump thinks Justin Trudeau waited for him to get on a plane and secretly talked to the media about Trump’s behavior at the G7 summit. Even though Trudeau actually openly stated that the group didn’t mind excluding the U.S. if necessary, before the summit, and couldn’t possibly have thought a mention of Trump on television wouldn’t get back to POTUS — even if he somehow actually didn’t know there are televisions on planes.
36. “Other than he had a news conference that he had because he assumed I was in an airplane and I wasn’t watching. He learned. That’s going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada. He learned.”
Trump promises to punish Canada because Trudeau said, on television, that he wouldn’t hesitate to impose retaliatory tariffs. Trump clearly considers this a betrayal, as he promises, on television, to impose similar monetary punishment for Canada.
37. “Can I ensure that you’re going to be able to sit down properly when you sit down?”
If you can’t even be sure a reporter can sit down properly, how can you be sure that North Korea will keep a promise? That’s a solid metaphor.
38. “And making a deal is a great thing for the world. It’s also a great thing for China because I can’t imagine that China has, you know, is happy with somebody having nuclear weapons so close.”
Making a deal is great for the world, and also for China.
39. “I don’t think — I mean, I’ve read horror stories. It’s a 15-year process. Okay?”
He’s read horror stories, and it’s going to take 15 years to denuclearize.
40. “As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at the view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?”
Oh yes, a nice piece of Trump real estate. If we could just stop these cannons, someone could make some money.
41. “You know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.”
Any guessses what name he’d like to see on these hotels?
42. “Yes. Hi, Brian. Am I on the cover again this week? Boy, have I — so many covers.”
These questions are hard. Can we talk about getting Trump on the cover of a magazine again?
43. “And even add the Olympics to it. You know, you could add the Olympics to the question. They went to the Olympics. They took an Olympics that was going to be a massive failure that maybe wouldn’t have even opened, and they made it a tremendous success by agreeing to participate.”
Trump credits North Korea for saving the Olympics.
44. “Oh, I understand them much better than you do.
Trump understands the people who think this meeting legitimized Kim’s regime and and appeared to endorse it. He understands them better than the reporter. Probably better than anybody.
45. “I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”
This may be the best thing Trump says in the whole interview. How often does the President admit, on camera, that if he’s wrong, he’ll cover it up and make an excuse, instead of just telling the truth and working to fix it?
The while conference leaves us with one lingering question: how many of these statements will Trump or his surragates have to deny in the next few days?