Politics

Laughing Matter: Trump’s Second Day at UN Is a Wild Ride

World leaders laugh at U.S. president. He later lashes out at Kavanaugh accuser

President Donald Trump attends a United Nations meeting on the global drug problem in New York on Monday. World leaders responded to his boasts about achievements Tuesday with several rounds of laughter. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

World leaders, in a stunning and awkward rebuke, laughed at President Donald Trump on Tuesday. He responded by lashing out at one of the women who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when both were in college.  

Trump began what was billed by his top aides as a major foreign policy address targeting Iran and setting the stage for new talks with North Korea by touting what he sees as top domestic accomplishments. The United Nations General Assembly hall in New York seemed a strange place for what has become a campaign-trail applause line in front of his “Make America Great Again” gear-sporting supporters. And the world leaders there to hear his message agreed.

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” Trump told the ornate and massive room. He continued, “America’s …”

The U.S. president paused. His counterparts were laughing.

“Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” said Trump, looking around the hall with a wide grin as the laughter built. The global leaders added spirited applause, seemingly impressed by Trump’s willingness to be mocked in his own hometown.

Watch: Highlights of Trump's UN Address in 2 Minutes

More warnings

Trump completed his remarks, which were one part conventional (he urged a resumption of Syrian peace talks) and one part America first (“The U.S. will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination,” he said). The address also included warnings to Iran to cease both its nuclear arms ambitions and its destabilizing actions in the region.

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And a year after warning that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was on a “suicide mission” by pursuing his own atomic agenda, Trump instead said this phrase ahead of a planned second summit with the youthful leader: “I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken.”

The hall-wide laughter returned later when Trump turned to global energy prices.

And the German delegation, not known for its collective funny bone, had its own laugh when the U.S. president said seconds later, “Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.”

Why did the Germans chuckle in unison? Probably because multiple industry sources show Trump is stretching the truth and statistics. BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy puts Russia’s share of Germany’s natural gas imports in 2017 at around 50 percent. And natural gas accounted for only 20 percent of Germany’s energy needs in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency.

Ben Rhodes, a top national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, weighed in with this tweet: “American Presidents used to set the global agenda at the UNGA. Now Trump gets laughed at.”

Jon Alterman, a senior vice president of the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was “a different mood than there was last year [when] there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty about what President Trump would be like and what he would do and how to talk to him.”

“I think a lot of leaders actually stayed away last year because they were afraid of getting caught somehow between not wanting to offend President Trump, but not wanting to do anything with President Trump [that] would get them in trouble with the voters at home,” Alterman said. “I think people have sort of figured out how to deal with that.”

Trump, asked later Tuesday by a reporter about the laughter earlier, called it “great.” Of the part of his speech touting his accomplishments, the president said it “was meant to get some laughter, but it was great.”

Doubling down

But Trump was clearly agitated minutes after concluding his address as he fielded questions from reporters during a photo opportunity with his Colombian counterpart. He grew animated when asked about Kavanaugh’s nomination and his second accuser, Deobrah Ramirez, who has alleged sexual misconduct by the judge when they were in college. Trump suggested she was “too messed up” at a college party to be credible.

“Now a new charge comes up. And she said it might not be him and there are gaps,” Trump told reporters, referring to Ramirez. “And she said she was totally inebriated, and she was all messed up. And she doesn’t know if it was him, but it might have been him.

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“Oh, gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that,” the president said before going after Senate Democrats: “This is a con game being played by the Democrats.” He called members of the minority party “lousy politicians” who “don’t know what the hell they are doing,” before adding: “But they are good at one thing. That is obstruction and con.”

The president said very little last week about Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to come forward with allegations about Kavanaugh engaging in sexual misconduct. But in recent days, Trump has steadily ramped up his rhetoric about the accusers — much more than the Senate Republicans who will ultimately decide Kavanaugh’s fate.

Asked if Ramirez should testify Thursday, Trump replied: “The second accuser doesn’t even know, she thinks maybe it could have been him, maybe not. Admits she was drunk. She admits time lapses.”

World leaders were not alone Tuesday in dismissing a Trump remark. Senate Democrats included his “messed up” assessment in a blast email accusing Republicans of being hellbent on confirming Kavanaugh no matter what his first accuser, Ford, tells the Senate Judiciary Committee at a planned Thursday hearing.

“Unfortunately, it appears that Republican leaders have pre-judged the outcome of Thursday’s hearing,” the email read. “Democrats have called on the FBI to re-open the background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh but Republicans and President Trump have refused. What are they hiding?”

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