In a wide-ranging press gaggle before departing for the G7 in France, President Donald Trump late Friday spoke positively of world leaders, North Korea and the economy, and said his recent remark calling himself the “chosen one” to fight China on trade was just sarcasm.
Speaking to reporters on the White House’s south lawn, Trump responded with visible impatience to a question about his unorthodox remark on his role in an escalating trade war with China.
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“Let me tell you, you know exactly what I meant,” Trump said. “It was sarcasm. It was joking. We were all smiling. And the question like that is just fake news. You’re just a faker.”
Trump called himself the “chosen one” on Wednesday as he discussed trade disputes with China while refusing to claim the trade conflict as solely his responsibility.
“Somebody said it is Trump’s trade war. This isn’t my trade war,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “This is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago by a lot of other presidents.”
Trump also drew a reaction on social media on Friday morning after he declared on Twitter that American companies were “hereby ordered” to find alternatives to manufacturing in China. When asked Friday night what gave him the power to make such a sweeping decree, Trump cited the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president the power to regulate commerce during exceptional international crises.
Shortly after take off en route to France, Trump reiterated that he had the power to do so, tweeting: “For all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. Case closed!”
During his Friday night gaggle, Trump also lambasted his Federal Reserve chair, Jay Powell, whom he has gone after repeatedly for not cutting interest rates more drastically.
Earlier Friday, Powell has said the trade environment that Trump created for the U.S. economy was an unprecedented “new challenge” for the Federal Reserve.
On Friday morning, Trump retaliated on Twitter by questioning whether Powell or Chinese President Xi Jinping is the “bigger enemy”.
When asked Friday night if he wanted Powell to resign, Trump responded: “Let me put it this way — if he did, I wouldn’t stop him.”
“I’m not happy with Jay Powell,” Trump said. “I don’t think he’s doing a good job at all. I don’t think he’s much of a chess player, but I’ve got him so, you know, that’s what I have.”
Trump also praised the fellow world leaders he plans to meet at the G7 summit in southwestern France as “friends of mine — for the most part,” and said he was hoping for a productive session.
He did, however, criticize French President Emmanuel Macron for his country’s recently announced digital services tax, which the U.S. government believes would adversely affect American tech firms such as Facebook and Google.
While Trump said he was “not a big fan” of many of the tech companies for their actions during the 2016 presidential election, he said they were still “great American companies” that should be subject principally to American taxes.
“I don’t want France going out and taxing our companies. Very unfair,” Trump said. “And if they do that, we’ll be taxing their wine or doing something else.”
Trump demurred on discussing the escalating conflict on the Korean peninsula — from the heating tensions over defense between South Korea and Japan, as well as North Korean missile testing. The president cited his “very good” friendships with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and repeatedly returned to his common refrain: “We’ll see what happens.”
“He likes testing missiles. But we never restricted short range missiles. We’ll see what happens. Many nations test those missiles,” Trump said.