President Donald Trump appeared to shelve his ongoing feud with the media on Saturday night, as he fired off a string of self-deprecating jokes in a jovial and upbeat evening at the annual Gridiron Dinner.
“Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do,” Trump quipped to attendees at the formal gathering of journalists and lawmakers.
“It’s not even close.”
After a chaotic week, President Trump gets laughs at Gridiron dinner
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From jokes about Melania leaving him, to his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s security clearance, Trump appeared to pull no punches and — for the most part — made light of the media’s coverage of his administration and personal life.
“It’s been really another calm week at the White House. We finally have it running like a fine-tuned machine,” Trump began.
“We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security,” he said.
Trump then turned his attention to Vice President Mike Pence. “I really am proud to call him the apprentice,” he said.
But Trump added that Pence was bothering him recently with his focus on news reports. “He starts out each morning asking everybody, ‘Has he been impeached yet?’ You can’t be impeached when there’s no crime! … Mike, put that down!” he said.
The president’s one-liners contrasted with his usual stance toward the media, which he often accuses of bias against his administration and family.
Only hours before the dinner Trump had tweeted a sharply-worded criticism of the national press. “Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They’ve gone CRAZY!” he wrote, linking to a story by a conservative pundit saying Trump and his family are victims of “unparalleled” press attacks.
Last year the president skipped the Gridiron dinner, which traces its history back to 1885, when President Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one Gridiron dinner.
“I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted,” Trump quipped to the attendees of the white-tie event at the Renaissance Washington hotel.
Many of Trump’s jokes focused on the atmosphere in the West Wing following what was a chaotic week of staff departures, with more rumored to come.
Trump remarked on the tension between himself and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself,” he said.
The president said Steve Bannon “leaked more than the Titanic” and that Omarosa was “the worst!”
But even while acknowledging the unrest behind the scenes of his administration, Trump remained bullish.
“I like turnover. I like chaos,” he said.
“It really is good. Now the question everybody keeps asking is, ‘Who is going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?'”
Trump continued: “That is terrible, honey, but you love me, right? I won’t tell you what she said. She said, ‘Behave.’ … Is that terrible?”
While the speech was light on policy announcements and strong on humor, as per tradition, Trump did suggest that the United States planned to meet with North Korea providing they “denuke.”
The president said Pyongyang had recently reached out to Washington to say they would like to meet.
“A couple of days ago, they said, ‘We would like to talk’ and I said, ‘So we would we, but you have to denuke, you have to denuke,’” Trump told attendees.
“We will be meeting and we’ll see if anything positive happens,” he added, saying he wouldn’t rule out direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Maybe positive things are happening,” Trump said. “I hope that’s true.”
Then joking, Trump said: “As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”
If a meeting does happen, it would be the first between the Trump administration and North Korea, with the two countries currently in a standoff over the North’s development of nuclear weapons that may be capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
The president’s remarks came shortly before South Korea’s presidency announced Sunday that a delegation of South Korean officials will travel to North Korea on Monday to discuss improving relations on the peninsula and the possibility of talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
After the two-day visit to North Korea, the special envoys will travel to the United States to brief officials on their discussions in Pyongyang, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said.
The rest of the evening was filled with musical skits and journalists performing versions of well-known songs re-worded to skewer lawmakers and the major political parties.
Trump said the evening was “one of the best times I’ve had with the media,” adding, “This might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.”
Trump’s day reportedly started with more jokes at a Republican fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago property.
At the closed-door lunch in Florida, Trump reportedly praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently paving the way to extend his rule indefinitely, saying he might have to do something similar in the U.S.
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said, according to a recording obtained by CNN. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
Later at the Gridiron dinner, Trump concluded the evening on a more hamonious note.
“I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy,” he said.
“I mean that.”