The highly-anticipated town hall featuring none other than former US President Donald Trump was littered with pearl-clutching and eyebrow-raising moments as the one-time commander-in-chief spoke on his new White House bid and the Ukraine conflict, among other hot-button issues.
As Trump took questions from a mix of Republican and undeclared voters late Wednesday, the event repeatedly showed him clash with host Kaitlin Collins – a reaction that had been expected in light of the former president’s past televised appearances.
From the campaign road to the court room and the global stage, here are some of the key topics that were discussed:
2024 US presidential elections
Jumping into the 2024 election cycle, Trump claimed he would in fact accept the results of the looming presidential election regardless of the outcome – if he deems the election to be honest.
“Yeah, if I think it’s an honest election, absolutely, I will,” Trump told Collins when asked whether he would commit to accepting the results in any case. “If I think it’s an honest election, I would be honored to.”
“When you look at what happened during that election, unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happened,” he said in opening remarks.
Trump announced his 2024 campaign late last year, with current officeholder Joe Biden officially launched his reelection campaign in April.
Weighing into the ongoing shipments of US arms to back non-NATO player Ukraine, Trump said the United States was sending far too many weapons that Americans troops need for themselves.
“It’s an important question, so important because we’re giving away so much equipment, we don’t have ammunition for ourselves right now, we don’t have ammunition for ourselves, we’re giving away so much,” Trump said in regards to the billions’ worth of US military aid dispatched to Ukraine.
To date, the US has allocated upwards of $50 billion in congressionally-approved foreign aid to Ukraine despite a struggling American economy. Of the funding, the largest dollar amount is made up of weapons shipments, military deployments and supplies.
When asked about who Trump wants to win in the Ukraine conflict, he responded by saying: “I don’t think in terms of winning and losing, I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.”
“I want everyone to stop dying! … Russians and Ukrainians, I want them to stop dying!” Trump said when asked the same question again.
Trump reiterated he would have settled the conflict in 24 hours if he was the US president.
When asked about the role of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the conflict, Trump said that “it’s something to be discussed at a later date” because it would prove more difficult to negotiate a peace deal and “right now, we wanna get that war settled.”
US Debt’s Looming Crisis
With the US debt ceiling driving a good portion of the American news cycle, the former president told Collins that lawmakers should allow the US to default on its debt if the White House does not agree to cut spending.
“I say to the Republicans out there, congressmen, senators: if they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re gonna have to do a default,” he said, before quickly adding that he believed Democrats would “absolutely cave.”
“[Democrats] will absolutely cave because you don’t want to have that happen, but it’s better than what we’re doing right now because we’re spending money like drunken sailors,” Trump said when asked to speak on the government stalemate.
“Well, you might as well do it now because you’ll do it later because we have to save this country. Our country is dying. Our country is being destroyed by stupid people, by very stupid people,” Trump said when asked to clarify what he said.
Trump’s comments on the topic come as US President Joe Biden met with congressional leaders on Tuesday to negotiate lifting the US debt ceiling.
Last month, House Republicans passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for cuts to government spending. However, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have rejected the measure.
Biden is set to meet again with congressional leaders on Friday to follow up on debt ceiling negotiations. The US could default on its financial obligations as early as June if the debt ceiling is not raised, the Treasury Department said earlier this month.
Diving into the January 6 storming of the US Capitol and its aftermath, Trump claimed he would “most likely” pardon rioters convicted of federal offenses should he manage to win the 2024 presidential election.
“I’m inclined to pardon many of them,” Trump, adding: “I’m most likely, if I get in, I will most likely, I would say it will be a large portion of them.”
He said that he would not be able to pardon “every single one,” adding they had been prosecuted and “they’re living in hell right now.” He subsequently admitted “many of them are just great people.”
Changing gears to former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump indicated he does not presently feel as though he owes his then second-in-command an apology after Trump supporters sought him out during the riot.
“He did something wrong,” Trump said of Pence. “He should’ve put the votes back to the state legislatures and I think we would’ve had a different outcome.”
Trump has been the subject of investigations into alleged efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential outcome through the January 6 US Capitol riot.
While the Wednesday get-together had plenty of tit-for-tat moments for viewers, Trump did not shy away from blasting the outcome of the legal decision in the E. Jean Carroll case.
As he continued to claim that he did not know who the writer was, Trump took the opportunity to accuse her of lying and even went so far as to mock her accounts of the mid-1990s incident in which Trump allegedly attacked her at a dressing room.
In spite of the Tuesday court ruling, Trump went on to say he did not believe the decision would hurt his favor among women voters.
A jury on Tuesday found Trump liable of sexually assaulting Carroll inside a dressing room at New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s but fell short of finding he committed rape.
However, Trump was also found to have defamed Carroll after saying she voiced false accusations. The ruling awarded the Carroll camp of $5 million in damages.
Trump and company have stated an appeal will be filed on the matter.