Former President Donald Trump participated in the first town hall meeting in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. Most assess CNN’s event was a win for Trump. Even the typically left-leaning New Hampshire crowd gave Trump a standing ovation.
Many mainstream media outlets and Democratic leaders, however, criticized CNN for hosting the event and blasted Trump for “lies” and faulting the Biden administration for a number of the woes America now faces.
“Do you want four more years of that?” President Joe Biden said after the event was over.
CNN’s Jake Trapper said, “Trump’s first lie was told just seconds after the event began.”
Special adviser to former President Obama said, “Those who watched this should be very worried.”
CNN’s Alyssa Farrah Griffin said, “This is a man who is wholly unfit to serve as President.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “What we saw tonight was the result of extremely irresponsible decisions [by CNN] and I could not have disagreed with it more…it was much worse than I thought [it would be].”
AOC added: CNN should be “ashamed of themselves…They have lost total control of this ‘town hall’ to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim.”
Several notable Republicans also chided Trump’s performance. Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that Trump’s comments on Ukraine were “ridiculous” and indicated he was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet.
Erin Perrine of Never Back Down, a super PAC endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ potential presidential bid, referred to Trump’s CNN town hall as “an hour of nonsense.”
Perrine said: “The CNN townhall was, as expected, over an hour of nonsense that proved Trump is stuck in the past. After 76 years, Trump still doesn’t know where he stands on important conservative issues like supporting life and the Second Amendment. How does that Make America Great Again?”
The town hall event was hosted by St. Anselm College and moderated by CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins. A summary of the talking points follows:
Sparring with the host: A low point in the evening came when moderator Kaitlan Collins continued to press Trump about documents seized during a raid on his home and office in Mar-a-Lago. After being interrupted several times, Trump called Collins “a nasty woman.”
Ukraine: When pressed to frame Putin as a war criminal, Trump refused but claimed Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if he were still in the White House.
“If I were president, this would have never happened. And even the Democrats admit that Putin knew it would have never happened,” Trump said, then added, “If I’m president, I will have that war settled in one day — 24 hours.”
Immigration: Trump blasted the Biden administration and sanctuary city immigration policies, noting they have a negative impact.
“Look at New York City. They’re living in Central Park in New York City,” Trump claimed. “The city is being swamped, Los Angeles is being swamped, Iowa is being swamped our whole country is getting destroyed.”
Trump estimated that there could be as many as 15 million people crossing the southern border into America as Title 42 expires this week, and no comprehensive replacement legislation is in place to deal with the issue.
Anticipating a “bad moon rising,” Trump said the end of the Title 42 border policy would be a “day of infamy” for the Biden administration.
Energy: Trump indicated he would reverse Biden’s executive orders banning drilling if he returned to the White House. “Drill baby, drill,” he said when asked what he would do to bring down the cost of goods amid the country’s record-high inflation.
Trump added that the “stupid fools” in the Biden White House invited inflation when the president reversed his policies promoting energy independence.
“Energy went from $1.87 and even lower gasoline … they went from $1.87 to $5, $6, $7, $8 and even $9, Trump said. “And your electricity bills went through the roof, your heating bills went through the roof — and that’s what started inflation.”
The National Debt: Trump noted the Democrats are “spending money like drunken sailors” and that America’s economy “is being destroyed by stupid people by very stupid people.”
Noting a reset is in order, Trump signaled that defaulting on the debt may be the best way forward. Trump said of a possible default: “It’s psychological. It’s really psychological more than anything else. And it could be very bad. It could be maybe nothing.”
Abortion: Though Trump did not say he would sign a federal abortion ban if reelected, he did indicate that late-term abortion (in the absence of a medical issue that puts the mother’s life in danger) should not be legal.
Commending the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump said: “Getting rid of Roe v. Wade was an incredible thing for pro-life because it gave them something to negotiate with.”
E. Jean Carroll Lawsuit: Trump claimed that the Manhattan District Attorney abused his authority and showed political bias in targeting him. Trump added that the New York court that ruled against him in the Carroll v. Trump defamation case “was rigged.”
“I don’t know her, I never met her, [and] I don’t know who she is,” Trump claimed. “I had a picture taken years ago with her husband, a nice guy named John Johnson.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence: Trump reaffirmed he does not owe Pence an apology for, as CNN noted, possibly putting his life at risk during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump asserted: “[Pence] did something wrong. I like Mike Pence,” Trump added, “[but] he made a mistake” in certifying the results of the 2020 election.
January 6 protesters: Trump said he would pardon “a large portion” of rioters convicted for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Many argue their sentences were unusually harsh. “I am inclined to pardon many of them,” Trump said.
Trump harshly criticized former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of the January 6 event and continued to affirm the 2020 election was marred by fraud.
“I think that when you look at that result and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happens,” Trump said, adding, “It a rigged election.”
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