“This landmark agreement will put the coyotes out of business”, Donald Trump told reporters gathered in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon.
He was referring to the signing of a safe-third-country agreement with Guatemala, something which actually is a pretty big deal, considering what the administration is trying to do.
Guatemala landed in the president’s crosshairs earlier this week for failing to follow through on discussions for the agreement, which is designed to cut down on the flow of migrants to the US. Essentially, it compels asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador to claim asylum in Guatemala.
Read more: Trump Says He Might Have To Ban ‘Not Good’ Guatemalans
To be sure, Guatemala inked the deal under duress. On Tuesday, Trump threatened to hit the country with tariffs if they didn’t acquiesce.
Unsurprisingly, reporters had a lot of questions on the heels of Trump’s all-day Twitter harangue that found him lashing out at everyone and everything from Apple to the WTO to French wines.
Trump was in the mood to entertain and his responses were quite something.
Asked about the situation with France (with whom Trump is furious over the digital tax affront), the president explained (again) that he’s “always liked American wines better than French wine”.
Apparently realizing that was an absurd thing to say considering he famously doesn’t drink, Trump tried to clarify. “Even though I don’t drink wine. I just like they way they look. Ok?”
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Queried about trade and China ahead of next week’s negotiations (the first face-to-face, principal-level talks since things fell apart in May), Trump spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time explaining that Beijing might try to wait him out in hopes that he’ll lose the 2020 election. The way he described things made it sound as though the White House has inside information that makes the administration believe Xi isn’t in a hurry to strike a comprehensive deal. Many analysts on Wall Street agree.
But, according to Trump, it’s fine if China plans on stalling, because everyone is “happy” – including the farmers. The following clip finds Trump perpetuating the patently false narrative that Beijing is paying the tariffs. He then uses that as a springboard to insist that China is bankrolling the farmer bailouts an assertion with, again, just isn’t true.
It’s difficult to overstate how flawed that reasoning is. “We” are not “taking in” tens of billions in tariffs. Rather, “we” are essentially paying that money to ourselves and then redistributing it to farmers who “we” have bankrupted with misguided trade policies. That’s what “we” are doing and no amount of obfuscating about a weaker yuan and the PBoC “pumping money into the system” (as Trump likes to say when he’s trying to distract from the actual mechanics of tariffs) is going to change that.
Pressed on whether he’s concerned about North Korea’s latest missile launches, Trump said “not at all”. Asked whether it bothers him that Pyongyang described the tests as a “warning” to South Korea, Trump (basically) said that’s Seoul’s problem.
Notably, Trump directly refuted Larry Kudlow’s contention that the administration has ruled out intervention to weaken the dollar. “I didn’t say I’m not going to do something on the dollar”, the president said.
Trump then told reporters he had spoken to Boris Johnson just before everyone entered the room. While elaborating on how wonderful he thinks Boris will do as prime minister and extolling the virtues of a non-existent trade deal, the president claimed nobody uses the word “England” anymore.
Among other highlights, Trump threatened to investigate Barack Obama for unspecified crimes and said the reason he goes to Bedminster instead of Trump Tower on the weekends isn’t so he can play golf, but rather because if he goes to New York, he’d “have to close up the whole city of Manhattan”.
Roughly two hours later, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, cleared the way for Trump to divert Pentagon funds to build some 100 miles of fencing on the border. The decision means Trump can move ahead and lifts a lower court order that froze construction pending a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club.
“Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed”, an elated Trump tweeted. “Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”
If you come away from all of this thinking this was a whirlwind day, that would be the correct assessment. It is, frankly, astonishing.