Trump says he is most thankful for himself on Thanksgiving after extraordinary call with US troops in Middle East

'I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country,' US president says

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 23 November 2018 13:32
Trump says he's thankful for himself this Thanksgiving: 'I made a tremendous difference'

Donald Trump has said he is most thankful for himself, at the end of an extraordinary Thanksgiving Day phone call to US troops in which he railed against judges, immigrants and "bad" trade deals.

Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Thursday, the US president told reporters he was most thankful for his “great family” and “for having made a tremendous difference in this country”.

"This country is so much stronger now than when I took office you wouldn’t believe it," he said. "I mean you see it, but so much stronger that people can’t even believe it.

“When I see foreign leaders they say we cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now, and the United States two years ago.”

During the earlier teleconference with a select group of troops in the Middle East, Mr Trump described the US as the “hot nation of the world” and said it was doing “economically better than anyone”.

“It’s nice to know you’re fighting for something doing well, and that’s our country,” he said, adding: “Your courage truly inspires us all.”

Addressing Brigadier General David Lyons of the US Air Force, who told the president they were fighting in Afghanistan to ensure adversaries did not “reach our shores”, Mr Trump responded: “You said it better than anyone could have said – keep ‘em away from our shores, and that’s why we’re doing the strong borders.”

The 72-year-old then embarked on an extended monologue about immigration and security, in which he described many migrants trying to reach the US as “not good people” and praised the “barbed wire plus” installed alongside fencing at the US-Mexico border.

Echoing his recent outbursts on Twitter, Mr Trump next attacked judges on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals for making “a lot of bad court decisions”.

“We always lose and then we lose again,” he said, branding the judges a “thorn in our side” and a “disgrace”.

The federal appeals court, which is based in San Francisco, has blocked a number of border and immigration orders from Mr Trump during his presidency.

Mr Trump also railed against trade deals during an exchange with a Coast Guard lieutenant currently based in Bahrain.

“Trade for me is a very big subject all over. We’ve been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals, we don’t have any good trade deals,” he said, before asking lieutenant Nicholas Hartmann how he was finding trade in the Arabian Gulf.

Following the call, asked by a reporter if he planned to visit troops abroad, Mr Trump would only say his administration was “going to do some interesting things”. Pressed on if he knew when a visit may occur, the president said: “I do, but I can’t tell you.”

On Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Mr Trump again defended Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, despite a CIA assessment that he was likely aware of the planned killing.

“I hate the crime, I hate what’s done, I hate the cover-up, and I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it, the CIA points it both ways,” he said.

Asked who should be held accountable for the killing, Mr Trump said: "Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place."

Donald Trump: 'maybe the world should be held accountable' for Jamal Khashoggi murder

On his upcoming meeting with Chinese premier Xi Xinping at the G20 in Argentina, Mr Trump said he had been “preparing for it all my life”.

“It’s not like, oh gee I’m going to sit down and study,” he said, when asked if he had planned for the conversation. “I know every ingredient, I know every stat, I know it better than anybody knows, and my gut has always been right.”

He then claimed the economy had been “teetering” during president Barack Obama’s last months in office, a claim not supported by evidence.

“We were going down to minus four, minus five, minus six per cent in GDP,” he said. The economy actually grew 1.9 per cent in the last quarter of 2016.

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