NPR: At Gridiron Dinner, Trump Trades Jabs With His 'Opposition Party'
Still, standing behind the podium and flanked by a minor pantheon of Cabinet members and aides, Trump appeared to relish the opportunity to let loose, training his fire on just about everyone during the roast-style event.
There was his son-in-law seated to his left, Jared Kushner: "You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security."
His treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, sitting to his right: "America has a proud history of treasury secretaries who sponsored the arts. Alexander Hamilton gave us so much. Andrew Mellon famously gave us the National Gallery — a tremendous gift. Steve has given us the blockbuster movie Lego Batman."
There was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a favorite object of Trump's biting comments on Twitter, getting one this time in person: "You know, it's weird, I offered him a ride over — and he recused himself!"
Then he turned to his senior adviser Stephen Miller and wife, Melania.
"I like turnover," he said. "Now the question everybody keeps asking is, who is going to be the next to leave, Steve Miller or Melania?"
"That is terrible, honey — but you love me, right?" he added, turning to his wife as the joke was greeted with gasps from the audience. And after she mouthed something off-mic, he said to the crowd: "I won't tell you what she said."
The governing rule behind the evening's roast-style comedy — as laid out by Gridiron President David Lightman at the start of the night — was to "singe, not burn." It was guidance Trump observed ... for the most part. To muddy a beloved adage: He reserved the brunt of his heat for some of the absent figures who had stayed out of the kitchen — such as his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who Trump called one of CNN's "true stars, the guy who got you the most scoops and inside info."
That included apparently ad libbed broadsides lobbed at former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ("man, she's crazy — but she's a fine woman"), former Vice President Joe Biden ("trust me, I would kick his ass") and Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: "What is he, on some committee? That's the only thing he doesn't know, is what committee — because he's on the phone so much, he doesn't have any time. Hey!"
And then he turned to Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California.
" 'He must be impeached!' That's all she knows how to say," Trump told the crowd. "And I say — and I get in trouble for this — 'she has to immediately take an IQ test,' and people go crazy."
Imagine the "jokes" that didn't make the cut.
"I like chaos," Trump said in his own set. "It really is good."
And he closed the night of sparring with one final haymaker.
"I do want to say this is one of the best times I can ever remember having with the media," he said. "This might be the most fun I've had since watching your faces on election night."
"Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do," said Trump, who skipped last year's bash.
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A sampling of Trump's 30-minute plus speech:
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—on Vice President Mike Pence: "He is one of the best straight men you're ever going to meet ... he is straight. Man." Trump also said, "I really am proud to call him the apprentice "
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—on The New York Times: "I'm a New York icon. You're a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings."
—on former chief strategist Steven Bannon: "That guy leaked more than the Titanic."
—on the first lady: Trump said he doesn't understand why everyone says #freemelania. He said she's actually having a great time.