President Donald Trump got dressed up Saturday night to participate in one of those typical Washington traditions he usually loves to hate. Mere hours after sending a tweet in which he said that the media in the United States have “gone CRAZY!” Trump participated in an evening filled with charm and self-deprecation—at least for the most part.
The president had refused to participate in all of these types of Washington traditions in his first year in office, but on Saturday decided to take part in the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s 2018 spring dinner. Unlike the higher profile White House Correspondents Dinner, no cameras are allowed at this event that includes journalists and Washington power brokers making fun of each other. But a pool report by Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker and a few disparate stories from inside the room give us a pretty clear idea of the highlights from the president’s address.
Trump’s remarks were a bit all over the place, but he did manage to land some funny jokes. Even at his own expense. “My staff was concerned that I couldn’t do self-deprecating humor,” Trump said. “And I told them not to worry, nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do.” He also included Sen. Orrin Hatch on a joke that was really about him. “Orrin said that ‘Donald Trump is the best at self-deprecation in the history of America. Better than Washington and better than Lincoln’,” Trump said in a clear reference to how he had said Hatch called him the best president in history, which the senator denies.
By far the funniest jokes of the night concerned his own staff and allies.
On son-in-law Jared Kushner and his security-clearance woes: “Before I get started, I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we’re late tonight because Jared could not get through the security. I will tell you he is a good guy. And he has suffered. He is a great guy.”
On Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?”
On former chief strategist Steve Bannon: “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.” He also called Bannon one of CNN’s “true stars, the guy who got you the most scoops and inside info.”
On the staff changes at the White House: “So many people have been leaving the White House. It’s actually been really exciting and invigorating ‘cause you want new thought. So, I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Now the question everyone keeps asking is, Who is going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?” When the audience gasped, Trump said to his wife, “That is terrible, honey—but you love me, right?”
On Mike Pence’s interest in the news lately: “He wakes up every morning and asks, has he been impeached yet. I don’t like that,” Trump said while also calling Pence his “apprentice” at one point.
Trump also told a bit of a funny joke on North Korea but it was so convoluted people can’t quite decide whether he was announcing a serious policy issue. “I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un—I just won’t. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine,” he said in the amusing part of the bit. But Trump later went on to suggest that North Korea had actually approached Washington recently with offers to talk but Trump said they first have to “denuke,” without explaining what he meant by that unique choice of wording. “Now we are talking and they, by the way, called up a couple of days ago. They said that ‘we would like to talk.’ And I said ‘So would we, but you have to denuke, you have to denuke’,” Trump said.
Although the rules of the Gridiron Club is to “singe, not burn” as Gridiron President David Lightman said at the start of the night, Trump seemingly couldn’t help himself when talking about Democrats:
On former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Man, she’s crazy.”
On former Vice President Joe Biden: “Trust me, I would kick his ass,” Trump said. “Boy, would he be easy. Oh, would he be easy.”
On Rep. Maxine Waters: “‘He must be impeached!’ That’s all she knows how to say,” Trump said. “And I say—and I get in trouble for this—‘she has to immediately take an IQ test,’ and people go crazy.”
On Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “She said that Rex Tillerson and I should sit down with the leaders of Iran and North Korea and smoke a peace pipe,” Trump said. “I didn’t like that Pocahontas.”
On Democrats failing to give him a standing ovation during his State of the Union speech: “I was not going to include a salute to Fidel Castro. They would have stood up. They would have cheered.”
Trump did end with a funny joke directed at the reporters in the room: “I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I’ve had with the media—this might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.”