Speed Reads

'Total Debacle'

Trump declines to tell CNN forum if he wants Ukraine to win its war against Russian invaders

Former President Donald Trump ended his six-year boycott of CNN on Wednesday night, sitting down with anchor Kaitlan Collins for a 70-minute town hall event with supportive likely Republican voters in New Hampshire. CNN's Jake Tapper, speaking directly afterward, called it "an interesting night." "Mr. Trump's first lie was told just seconds into the night," he said, "and the falsehoods kept coming, fast and furious." 

One CNN staffer told The Washington Post it was a "total debacle." Collins was "in a no-win situation," another staffer said. "I can't believe anyone thought this was a good idea."

Collins repeatedly "attempted to correct inaccurate claims" Trump made about a wide range of topics," the Post reports, "but she found her rebuttals falling on deaf ears." The "most significant thing about Trump's town hall wasn't anything he said about the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, or the federal jury that found him liable for sexual battery," Politico adds. "It was that on all of those issues," the Republican audience "was siding with him," laughing and cheering when he dissembled, again stood by his infamous claim that women let stars like him grab them in the genitals, and called Collins a "nasty person."

Trump did make some news in his return to mainstream television. He suggested the U.S. should default on its debt if President Biden doesn't agree to the House GOP's steep budget cuts, telling Collins the free spending and clean debt limit increases of his presidency were different because "that's when I was president" and "now I'm not president." He said if elected again he would be "inclined" to pardon "a large portion" of the convicted Jan. 6 rioters. 

And Trump repeatedly declined to say if he would continue funding Ukraine's defense against Russia's invasion, or even if he wants Ukraine or Russia to win the war. "I don't think in terms of winning and losing," Trump claimed. He inflated the $36.9 billion the U.S. has given Ukraine in military aid to $171 billion.

Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin "a smart guy" who "made a bad mistake" in invading Ukraine, and claimed he would use his "great relationship" with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to end the war within 24 hours of taking office. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) tweeted that Trump is still "Putin's puppet," adding that "despite how ridiculous" it was for Trump to claim he could end the Ukraine war in a day, "I suspect he would try to do it by turning Ukraine over to Putin and Russia."