Whoever wrote Donald Trump’s half–hour comic speech at Saturday night’s Gridiron Club dinner at a DC hotel ballroom actually managed to deliver some zingers. For the first time in over a year, journalists may even have been laughing with The Donald instead of at him (along with crying).
The roast, a cameras–off tradition among presidential administrations and members of the media since 1885, might have been therapeutic for Trump, who has been under legal fire like no other president in history. It truly must be exhausting creating so much daily chaos that he probably can’t even remember the last person he insulted. Just hours before the Gridiron started, Trump insulted journalists again by calling them “CRAZY!” in a tweet, and claiming they are “being mocked all over the world.”
Maybe he was just getting warmed up. His jokes not only targeted journalists—although there were plenty of digs at reporters and Democrats in equal measure—but also members of his administration and his own family, some of whom were sitting right next to him. The sharpest punch line of the night was about his own wife, or rather, about the first lady’s ire over Trump’s alleged penchant for trysts with porn stars and prostitutes.
“So many people have been leaving the White House. It’s actually been really exciting and invigorating…I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good,” Trump said, according to a transcript provided to Talking Points Memo by pool reporter Hunter Walker. “Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave: Steve Miller or Melania?’”
On his son–in–law, Jared Kushner, who also is under intense pressure and scrutiny by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe, Trump said: “[B]efore I get started, I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security…Ivanka, you’ve got to do something…Jared, but I will tell you, he’s a good guy. He has, he has suffered. He is a great guy. He really is.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who often likes to appear at a distance from the president and his problems (while simultaneously justifying them), also was on the receiving end of a Trump joke. “I saw him the other day. We’re in line shaking hands with men and women. A woman came over to shake his hand and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do that. My wife is not here.’ I never saw anything like it. He’s years ahead of his time.”
And on it went for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, The New York Times, Louisiana Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Sen. Tom Cotton, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, Sen. Orrin Hatch, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and others.
But with Trump being Trump, it’s literally impossible for the president to make it through an evening, or any event really, without saying something bordering on the disgraceful. In this case, Trump crossed into offensive territory with his comments targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, real billionaire Oprah Winfrey, and Rep. Maxine Waters.
According to Walker, a White House correspondent for Yahoo News, Trump, 71, actually claimed he could kick Biden’s ass. Biden is 75.
“There’s talk about Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, getting into the race. You know what he said, ‘I want to take him behind the barn’…Just trust me, I would kick his ass,” Trump said. “Boy, would he be easy. Oh, would he be easy…But Joe, give me a break…He doesn’t have a shot.”
On Oprah, Trump, who likes to brag about the times he was a guest on Oprah’s show many years ago, claimed the self–made billionaire has “led a charmed life.” Addressing recent rumors that Oprah may be considering a run for the presidency in 2020, Trump said, “She says she’ll run only if she gets the go–ahead from the Almighty. All right, Oprah, go ahead and run.”
His worst comments were reserved for Waters.
“How about that one? Maxine Waters. ‘He must be impeached!’ That’s all she knows how to say. ‘He must be impeached!’ Impeached!…And then I say…I get in trouble for this, ‘She has to immediately, take an IQ test.’ And people go crazy. They went crazy. But Maxine and Nancy [Pelosi] and these people, there’s a lot of hatred. There’s so much hatred we have to stop, Mike. We have to stop the hatred.”
If Trump really wants to stop the hatred, as he claims, there’s one thing he can do immediately to further that goal: Resign.
On Sunday, Trump confirmed that he had enjoyed his time with the same journalists he constantly attacks. But he couldn’t even complete that thought without turning the praise back onto himself—in the name of the “American people,” of course.
“The Gridiron Dinner last night was great fun,” Trump tweeted. “I am accomplishing a lot in Washington and have never had a better time doing something, and especially since this is for the American People!”
(Also, make sure to read Walker’s Twitter thread on what he had to go through to get the transcript out to the world.)