WASHINGTON (AP) — He urged his audience not to jeer North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un while goading the crowd to boo the press.
If it wasn’t crystal clear already, President Donald Trump’s roaring rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night underscored the fact that, more than a year into the job, Trump has no interest in leaving behind the vulgar insults or biting attacks on the free press that defined his 2016 Republican campaign.
“You’d be so bored,” Trump said as he brushed off criticism that he should change his ways.
“Don’t forget, this got us elected,” he told the crowd outside Pittsburgh. “If I came like a stiff, you guys wouldn’t be here tonight.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 11, 2018
Instead, Trump repeatedly lashed out at the “fake, fake media” and insulted reporters, prompting the crowd to break into a round of a favorite 2016 chant, “CNN sucks.”
But when it came to the North Korean leader, Trump was more restrained.
“No, it’s very positive,” Trump said after his mention of Kim’s name prompted boos and jeers. Trump, who last week agreed to a historic one-on-one meeting with Kim, motioned with his arms for the crowd to calm. “After the meeting you may do that, but now we have to be very nice.”
Later, he held up China and Singapore as examples of countries that had successfully tackled their drug problems and suggested mandating the death penalty for drug dealers in the United States.
Trump critic Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said the president’s comments were setting a dangerous precedent.
“Words matter,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” whose host, Chuck Todd, had been the subject of some of Trump’s most virulent tongue-lashing, including being called a “sleeping son of a bitch.”
Flake, who has hinted he might challenge Trump in 2020, said: “We had a record number of journalists being jailed overseas, some on false news charges, echoing the phrases that he uses. So I don’t think it’s a responsible thing to do.”
But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, also appearing on Todd’s show, brushed off Trump’s vulgar language, including his description of Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, as a “low IQ” person.
“These are campaign rally issues,” Mnuchin said. “That is at a campaign rally. And the president likes making funny names.”
Mnuchin also argued the press should pay less attention to Trump’s rally speeches and more attention to his policies, such as his announcement on tariffs last week.
“He’s using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally, and obviously there were a lot of funny moments on that rally,” he said.
Todd, whom Trump derided throughout the campaign as “sleepy eyes Chuck Todd,” responded to Mnuchin with a deadpan tone. “Yeah, they were hilarious,” he said.
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