HAMPTON, New Hampshire — The Donald is on fire.
Arriving shortly before 7 p.m. at Winnacunnet High School here in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Friday evening, billionaire Donald Trump—and his entire campaign entourage—whizzed into a classroom-turned-into-press-conference-setup to face a room with more than 40 reporters waiting for him.
Trump fielded question after question from reporters throughout the room for more than 20 minutes, detailing his policy viewpoints, bashing his competition and lighting up the permanent political class and all the lobbyists—acting presidential throughout the press conference, laying out his vision for the United States of America clearly, concisely, with specific policy viewpoints and showing complete lack of fear of any political foe or threat to the United States. He went from domestic policy issues like the heroin and drug epidemic plaguing places like New Hampshire and nearby Massachusetts to foreign policy to trade policy to military policy to immigration policy to politics from the campaign trail to criticism of the Obama administration and the Bush administration that preceded it, sprinkling in hits on Democratic frontrunner former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Mr. Trump, you said that the concept of global warming was created by China [to hurt the United States]. Can you explain precisely how China created the concept of global warming?” one reporter asked. Trump replied:
I said that in a very sarcastic fashion—but it’s helping China because China is doing very little about global warming and this country has gone overboard. You saw what happened the other day with President Obama’s bill. It’s going to put costs out of control, and we have to compete with China. We have to compete with the rest of the world. China loves what we’re doing on global warming, that I can tell you. You go over to China and see what their factories are doing. Their factories are doing absolutely nothing having to do with global warming and they won’t for many, many years. China is making it impossible between their devaluations—I was just talking about with somebody who really knows the subject—their devaluations and the whole thing with global warming, China is making it impossible for our companies to compete and we better get smart on this.
Next up after environmental policy was Iraq.
“Governor Bush said this week that bringing down Saddam Hussein was a good deal. Do you agree with him? Do you think it was worth it?” another reporter asked. Trump responded:
We spent $2 trillion in Iraq. We lost thousands of lives in Iraq. We have wounded warriors who I love all over this country and beyond, okay? Was it worth it? We have nothing. We have nothing. His brother made a horrible decision and President Obama made a horrible decision the way he left. We should have taken the oil instead of giving it to ISIS and Iran. You know who the primary beneficiary of the oil is? China. China is taking out so much oil. I said you shouldn’t have gone in, but I said once you went into Iraq you should have never in a million years, you should have never—you go in, you never won—but a lot of mistake on the Iraq wars. I heard Jeb Bush talking. First of all it took him five days before he could give an answer. And after the pollsters told him what to say, he’s now trying to backtrack—probably because his brother said ‘hey wait a minute you’re killing me here. It’s bad. That’s my legacy, the Iraq war.’ The Iraq war is a disaster for the Bushes. That’s why the last thing we need is another Bush. Saddam Hussein, instead of him, you have ISIS. Instead of him, you have Iran taking over. So you tell me: Was it worth what we paid for?
After that came U.S. foreign policy with Russia. “Mr. Trump, you said U.S.-Russian relations are destroyed. Are you going to fix—“ a reporter began to ask before Trump, at that point on a roll and gaining momentum, cut him off.
“I said they’re terrible,” Trump corrected the reporter. “They’re not destroyed but they’re pretty well-destroyed. I think I would have a great relationship with Russia and Putin.”
“Would you roll back sanctions with Russia?” the reporter followed up.
“It depends, depends,” Trump answered. “They have to behave also.”
“Why do you think you’d get along well with Russia,” the reporter pressed again. Trump replied:
I think I’d get along well with Putin. I know many of the people. I had a major event there two years ago in Moscow, as you know. It was a tremendous success. An amazing success. I think I’d get along well with Putin. And I think I’d get along with the leaders of the world well, many of them. Not all of them. And the ones I don’t get along with, they’re going to have to pay. We have to make our country great again and we’re not doing that. We’re going in the wrong direction. We’re going like this [points downward]. Laughing stock. We’re a laughing stock all over the world.
From there, Trump took on the war on drugs.
“Mr. Trump, we’re in New Hampshire—a state with a huge heroin problem—“ another reporter started asking him before he jumped in.
“Yeah, New Hampshire has a huge heroin problem,” Trump answered. “I mean, per capita, the biggest in the whole country—nobody would know that, but yeah, New Hampshire has a huge heroin problem.”
“How do we solve it?” the reporter followed up before Trump sketched out the beginnings of his plan to fix it.
“Education, working hard, we have to get people to understand the problem and it starts probably with oxycontin from what I’m hearing,” Trump said. “You have to educate and you have to do something very strong. But it does have a big problem, I’ve been hearing it from everybody. Bigger per capita than any place else.”
At that point, another reporter asked him when he would start rolling out specific policy proposals. As has been reported, Trump is working with some of the brightest minds in the country—for instance, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on immigration policy—to craft his position papers.
“I have some of the most brilliant people in the country working on tax, which we will be involved in very much because I understand the system very much—probably better than anybody that’s ever run for office if you want to know truth—because I am part of the system,” Trump said. “But we have some amazing people working on immigration. I would say over the next two to three weeks, probably some time in September.”
From there, another reporter turned the conversation back to Russia and Putin. “Mr. Trump, are you worried about what Putin’s done in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula?” Trump replied:
Ukraine is a problem, but at some point don’t you think that the countries of Europe should be a little more involved than they are? We’re leading all these fights. Ukraine is a big problem. Germany is a rich powerful country. Economically tremendous power. Tremendous unbelievable unleashed economic power. Why isn’t Germany [doing anything]? Do we have to lead every fight? So, Ukraine is a problem and we have to help them. But let Germany and other countries over there that are directly affected, let them work it. We’ve got enough problems in this country, we have to rebuild our country. China and other countries have drained us. China has created the greatest theft in the history of the United States. I mean, if you think about it, it’s the greatest theft in the history of the United States—the money they’ve taken out from us. It’s a one-way street. So we back our folks and we back our friends and we want them to straighten out Ukraine, and I want to see it straightened out also, but don’t you think Germany and those countries directly affected should maybe be fighting? It’s almost that they don’t even care. They don’t even care.
After that, another reporter asked Trump about the recent attacks that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has launched on him. Trump used the answer to not just attack Paul but lay out his own vision for the military—a strong national defense with a military so big that nobody would fight with the United States. Trump said:
Rand Paul, you have to understand, is a disaster in the polls. He’s a disaster on military and defense. He’s getting decimated by everybody. And other than giving him a lot of money for an eye center—at his request, he asked me—I said absolutely because I think it’s worthwhile. But I gave him a lot of money for an eye center. But other than giving him a tremendous amount of money for his eye center, which I’m happy about frankly because I think they do good work, I hope they do good work, he is doing so badly that he figured he has to go out and attack Trump because I’m doing so well everywhere. I don’t mind because he’s never going to make it. Can’t make it. This is not a time to be weak on defense. I’m the opposite—I want to make our military so strong and so powerful and so great that nobody’s going to mess with us. And I want to take care of our vets, who are treated like third class citizens. You know, two weeks ago on Wednesday, our vets—as you know and probably reported on it, as you have a big problem here with vets not being taken care of properly—our vets had the longest wait in the history of the VA, waiting for doctors in rooms. They’ll wait four or five or six days. In one case, they waited five days and the doctor said ‘sorry, I’m going on vacation.’ So politicians are all talk no action—they’re all the same. Politicians have let the vets down. Rand Paul has let the vets down. I don’t blame him—he’s doing so poorly in the polls so he attacks the person that’s [leading]. Hey look, I’ve been attacked now by now Perry of Texas and he went ehhh like a rocket ship except in the wrong direction [while swooping his hand downward]. I was attacked by Lindsey Graham and he had two points but now he has zero. Now Rand Paul has very few points but I think he’s going down too. I’ll say one further thing about Rand Paul then let’s not waste a lot of time. Rand Paul is using the people of Kentucky. Either run for Senate and do a good job, or run for president. You don’t run for president but by the way oh maybe I’ll become your senator reluctantly. If I were somebody, a good strong Republican from Kentucky, I would run against him in a heartbeat and you’d win because the people of Kentucky are being used by Rand Paul. Now think of it, they’re saying if he doesn’t make it we’ll take him? That’s not the way it works. Kentucky should get a senator that wants to represent them, not a senator that’s a backup plan. If I was in Kentucky, I’d run against him and believe me I’d win.
After that, a reporter asked Trump what he thought of the long wait times at the VA for veterans to get health services. The reporter, who also works as a veterans claims advocate, noted that some claims take over three years to process.
“Unbelievable, you hear that?” Trump asked the cameras. “It takes over three years to process one veteran’s claim!”
“My question is do you think the VA has run out of money to help them because it has been allocated to the wrong people?” the reporter finished her question.
“No I think they’ve run out of competence,” Trump responded flatly. “They have incompetent people running it. And it starts with our senators and our congressmen and our president. I run things properly. What I run runs properly. One of the things I will do is take care of our veterans. You’re a perfect example when you take three years to process a claim? It should take 24 hours.”
A reporter then asked Trump if he’d take up Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s challenge to do the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS research—Trump had previously done it once before last year—but Trump shot Walsh down: “He’s a clown.” Trump joked:
He spends all this time and effort and money on an Olympic bid and then he goes out talking about Ice Bucket Challenges? Get a real mayor. He came out and he was strongly against—when we had the original problem when I was misquoted, now everybody is apologizing to me. Illegal immigration, he said ‘I don’t like Trump’s statements.’ Now everybody is apologizing to me because I turned out to be right. Massive crime. You had beautiful Kate [Steinle] in San Francisco, even three days ago a 66-year-old woman was raped, sodomized and tortured by an illegal immigrant and they caught him. It’s just disgraceful what’s going on. I brought up, and I’m so proud I brought up—I took a lot of heat, a lot of heat that first week, they called it incoming from you people [the media], incoming—now so many people have apologized to me. And it’s become a mainstay of everybody’s campaign. The problem is they don’t know what to do about it. I do. And it starts with building a wall.
After that another reporter asked him: “[Massachusetts GOP] Gov. [Charlie] Baker has said some of your recent comments were reprehensible about women,” the reporter began before Trump cut him off.
“No, I don’t think he said that,” Trump said. “Let me tell you something, when Jeb Bush said on women’s issues that he won’t fund it.”
As another reporter’s cell phone went off in the room, Trump stalled his answer and turned to that reporter: “I apologize. Are you okay?”
He started trying to finish his answer but kept getting interrupted by the cell phone over and over again. Once he finally got rolling, he said: “You ready? Third time. Jeb Bush said that on women’s health issues, he won’t fund them. Then he said, ‘I misspoke, I’m so sorry.’” Trump went on:
I cherish women. Women will be taken care of better with a President Trump than anybody else, Republican or Democrat—anybody else. You can look at my company, I have many women executives and in many cases many of them make more money. Second question, how many do you have? Many. We’re going to be introducing them over a period of time, too. They’re unbelievable. They’re paid almost—I think they’re paid, we’re looking into it, we’re studying it right now. I think they’re paid more. But they’re phenomenal. They’re incredibly talented, and even years ago in charge of major construction projects—I’ve had women in charge, which years ago was unheard of. So I’ve been way out in front and Gov. Baker should only dream about doing for women what I’ve done and what I will do. But on the women’s issue, there will be nobody better than Donald Trump.
Asked about devout socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic nomination, Trump noted that “Bernie Sanders has gained a lot of traction.” Trump said:
Well they [voters] are looking for real change. You know, Obama said they’re looking for change and hey look what we got? We got ‘change.’ People want something different than what they have. Bernie Sanders is not going to end up being the standard but certainly he and I are getting by far the biggest crowds. I mean, look at the crowd tonight. Other people are getting 50 people, 54 people. We have 2,500 people and a thousand people—more than that—are standing outside listening to microphones and loudspeakers. We’ve had tremendous crowds. We had 15,000 in Phoenix and every crowd is a record crowd. He’s done something on the other side with a very different philosophy to put it mildly.
From there, another reporter asked Trump about Paul’s attacks once more. He briefly put Paul down again, then shifted into his campaign messaging:
I built a net worth of more than $10 billion. I’ve been a world class businessman. All over the world I build. I’ve got some of the great assets of the world. That’s the thinking—I don’t say that in a braggadocious way—that’s the thinking that our country needs to take our jobs back from China and Japan and Mexico and clean up the border by the way, speaking of Mexico. But that’s the kind of thinking we need to take back our jobs, bring back our money, take back our manufacturing. You take China, what they’ve done, they’ve taken our money, our jobs, our base, our manufacturing and we owe them $1.4 trillion. That’s like a magic act. They’ve taken everything and we owe them money. We owe, right now, China $1.4 trillion. I’m telling you it’s like a magic act—they get everything and we owe them money. Not the other way around, because we’re led by people who don’t have a clue. Honestly, I think we’re led by stupid people. I don’t think they’re bad people. It used to be that it was so bad I think they’re bad people. I think they’re very stupid people. Our leaders don’t have a clue. They’re incompetent.
Trump noted that he’s spoken with legendary investor Carl Icahn and asked him to join an eventual Trump administration because America currently has horrendous negotiators on trade and other policies. Trump said:
Remember this, Bush and Hillary and every one of them has a lot of money from my friends—I used to be one of them, I’d contribute to everybody, and they’re always there for me. But that’s not good for the country. That’s not good as a system. But Jeb has raised $114 million, approximately. Everybody that puts money up for Jeb Bush, it’s like he’s a puppet. He’s totally controlled by these people. Jeb Bush is controlled by the people who put up the money and so are the other candidates. I don’t want money from people, other than small donations because I have so many people writing. One woman sent $7, another sent $20. I love that when they invest in my campaign. They invest. I don’t want that for the money, I want that because psychologically I think it’s great. But Jeb Bush has $114 million, what’s he going to do with it? He’ll start hitting me with ads, I guess. At some point, he’s got to because he’s going down the tubes. The guy’s going down the tubes. There’s no energy. So when Jeb and Hillary and all these other candidates start spending money, remember this, that money was given by people who have total control over them. Those people, many of whom I know very well, they don’t care about him, they don’t care about the color of his hair, they don’t care about the country in many cases. They only want whatever they want and they’ll get plenty of it.
That—and more—was all before he took the stage shortly thereafter and directed another short set of remarks to the overflow room with an extra thousand people.