Tuesday, 21 May 2024

What We Learned About Trump’s Policies in Contentious Town Hall

Among the barrage of falsehoods and bluster, former President Donald J. Trump laid markers down on several major and divisive issues at the CNN town-hall meeting on Wednesday night.

Mr. Trump spoke of several actions he might take if re-elected, at times with a specificity he often dodges in speeches and friendlier interviews. He also revealed much about his thinking on positions that are likely to roil his party, including the war in Ukraine and access to abortion.

Here’s a look at some of what Mr. Trump said about policy:

Reconsidering migrant family separations

When asked if he would return to a policy of separating migrant children from their parents when they arrive at the border, Mr. Trump did not rule it out.

“Well, when you have that policy, people don’t come,” he said. “If a family hears that they’re going to be separated, they love their family, they don’t come.”

Mr. Trump acknowledged that the policy “sounds harsh” but claimed that the situation warranted it.

Some 5,500 foreign-born children, and hundreds of U.S. citizens, are known to have been separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s so-called zero tolerance policy, which jailed and criminally charged migrant parents for crossing the border without authorization.

Mr. Trump abandoned the policy after an international outcry in 2018.

President Biden formed a commission to reunite parents with their children, some of whom have spent years in foster care. He also vowed not to separate families at the border and quickly ended the detention of families, though the administration is considering new efforts such as curfews and the use of more GPS monitors for adults as they see more surges of families arriving at the border.

Pardons for the Jan. 6 rioters

When asked if he had any regrets about his actions leading up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Trump insisted that he did nothing wrong and sympathized with his supporters who took part.

A retired lawyer in the audience asked Mr. Trump if he would issue pardons to those rioters who were convicted of federal offenses.

“I am inclined to pardon many of them,” Mr. Trump said. “I can’t say for every single one because a couple of them, probably, they got out of control.”

More than 900 people have been criminally charged as part of the assault on the Capitol, including four members of the far-right group the Proud Boys, who were convicted this month of sedition.

Mr. Trump did not rule out pardons for them, saying he would have to review their individual circumstances.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’d have to look at their case, but I will say in Washington, D.C., you cannot get a fair trial, you cannot. Just like in New York City, you can’t get a fair trial either.”

Dodging on a national abortion ban

Mr. Trump repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if Republicans managed to steer one through the divided Congress. He also would not say how many weeks into a pregnancy he might consider banning an abortion.

“I’m looking at a solution that’s going to work,” he said. “Very complex issue for the country. You have people on both sides of an issue, but we are now in a very strong position. Pro-life people are in a strong position to make a deal that’s going to be good and going to be satisfactory for them.”

Mr. Trump appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court during his presidency, paving the way for the court to eliminate the federal right to an abortion. But he has since resisted being drawn into the debate, and has privately worried about political backlash.

Characterizing his views on abortion restrictions as similar to President Ronald Reagan’s, Mr. Trump said that he believed in exceptions for rape, for incest and to save the life of a mother.

Not taking Ukraine’s side

Mr. Trump skirted the issue when asked multiple times if he wanted Ukraine to win the war after being invaded last year by Russia.

“I don’t think in terms of winning and losing,” he said. “I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people.”

The former president claimed he would bring the war to an end in 24 hours, if he returned to office, but did not specifically say what he would do to broker a peace.

He would not call President Vladimir Putin of Russia a war criminal, as Mr. Biden has, saying that doing so would make it more difficult to end the hostilities between the two nations.

Mr. Trump did say Mr. Putin had “made a bad mistake” by invading Ukraine.

Threatening default on U.S. debt

Mr. Trump suggested on Wednesday night that Republicans in Congress should hold fast against raising the federal debt ceiling without budget cuts, even if it means the country defaults on its debt.

“I say to the Republicans out there — congressmen, senators — if they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re going to have to do a default,” he said.

A growing list of economists and analysts have warned about the potential consequences if Congress does not raise the borrowing limit before the government can no longer pay its bills, including huge job loses, a recession and a nosedive on Wall Street.

Mr. Trump predicted that Democrats would “absolutely cave” when confronted with the choice between accepting spending cuts and defaulting. Still, when asked to clarify if he would endorse a default, he said he would.

“We might as well do it now because you’ll do it later,” he said.

When Ms. Collins pointed out that Mr. Trump had once said when he was president that using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge could not happen, he said that circumstances had changed.

“Because now I’m not president,” he said.

The Big Lie 2.0?

On a night when he doubled and tripled down on his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged, Mr. Trump refused to say unconditionally that he would accept the results of next year’s election should he become the Republican presidential nominee.

“If I think it’s an honest election, I would be honored to,” he said.

Mr. Trump spent much of the interview re-litigating his defeat and closed with a caveat about the next election.

“If it’s an honest election, correct, I will,” he said of accepting the results.

Alyce McFadden and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

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