Trump also accused Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, of leaking Ford’s accusations. (She has denied this.) But far stranger was his threatening innuendo about members of the Senate.
“I watched those senators on the Democrat side and I thought it was a disgrace, and partially because I know them. I know them too well. They are not angels,” he said. A few minutes later, he added: “I happen to know some United States senators, one who is on the other side, who is pretty aggressive. I have seen that person in very bad situations, okay? I have seen that person in very, very bad situations, somewhat compromising, and you know, I think it is very unfair to bring up things like this.”
Trump refused to say who or what he was referring to, and no one else seemed to know either.
It was vintage Trump: The president made an accusation without any facts to back it up, refused to produce the facts, and then said that even mentioning the accusation was “very unfair” in the same breath that he mentioned it.
As peevish and patronizing as Trump can be in these settings, he sometimes cracks jokes that lighten the mood. This isn’t the same as when Trump makes an outrageous comment and then claims he was “sarcastic” or speaking in humor. These are clearly intended as jokes. Discussing whether Kavanaugh had been a heavy drinker, Trump noted that he himself is a teetotaler.
“I can honestly say I have never had a beer in my life. Okay. It’s one of my only good traits, I do not drink,” Trump said. “Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I would be?”
Give the man points for self-awareness: He was already all over the place and he was stone-cold sober on a Monday morning.
Who knows whether these two press conferences will prove to be a blip or part of a concerted return to the more accessible Trump of 2015. But there are several reasons the president might be interested in trying it out.
First, the White House communications strategy isn’t working. The president’s approval ratings remain rotten, and he has repeatedly complained that he’s not getting as much credit as he believes he deserves for his accomplishments. Second, the president is getting back into campaign mode as the midterms approach, and that means he wants to be able to speak to the press more. Third, and relatedly, although Trump has been hosting more frequent rallies around the country, the magic is gone. He can still draw a big crowd, but the novelty has worn off, and the TV channels no longer air his meandering rally speeches from start to finish. He may need new ways to get attention, and press conferences fit the bill.
Watching Trump both on Thursday and again on Monday felt like a flashback to the wild, weird days of early 2016, and it showed both his weaknesses as a leader and his strengths as a campaigner. Because his presidency has so often seemed like a joyless slog, both performances were a reminder of what Trump was like before he was president. During the two recent appearances, the president once again seemed to be enjoying himself. Returning to the old format, Trump has been funny, condescending, demagogic, and full of untruth—and once again, it’s been nearly impossible to look away.
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