Key takeaways from Trump's CNN town hall in New Hampshire

As Donald Trump gears up for his 2024 White House bid, he sits down with the network that helped him to victory with constant coverage then undercut him during his tenure as Commander-in-Chief

Published: May 10, 2023 8:30pm

Updated: May 10, 2023 9:21pm

Former President and 2024 White House candidate Donald Trump came out swinging during a CNN townhall Wednesday night, immediately saying the 2020 election was rigged and stolen through fraud and that he had an obligation to shine a spotlight on it. 

"We did fantastically we got 12 million more votes than we had in, as you know, in 2016 actually we did far better in that election," he began. "Got the most that anybody's ever gotten as the President of the United States. I think that when you look at that result, and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you're a very stupid person, you see what happens a lot of the people, out of thee people in this audience and maybe a couple that don't -- but most people understand what happened. That was a rigged election. And it's a shame that we had to go through it." 

"It's very bad for our country all over the world," he continued. "I think it's a very sad thing for our country. I think it's a very sad thing, frankly, for the world. because if you look at what's gone to our country, our country has gone to hell, our border's open. Our military has been bad. you look at the taxes, you look at inflation, what's happened to inflation, it's just destroying our country. We've really become in many ways a third world country and it's very sad what's happened in this administration, and it's something that will turn around on day one."

The audience, which according to CNN consisted of Republicans and undecided voters who would be taking part in the GOP New Hampshire primary, was allowed to ask questions of the 45th president.  The first question was if Trump would be suspending his voter fraud claims during his campaign. 

Trump replied, "Yeah, unless I see election fraud... I think I have an obligation to say it. And you know what we went through a short while ago has really put our country in a big problem. I hope to do that. I hope we're gonna have very honest elections. We should have voter ID, we should have one-day elections. We should have paper ballots." 

"And I hope that it's going to be very straight up because if it's going to be straight up, we're going to win the election," he added. 

When host and moderator Kaitlan Collins pressed Trump about the Jan 6, 2021 Capitol incident and his claims that he offered Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi access to the National Guard, he re-read his tweets from that day saying the demonstrations should remain "peaceful." She then asked why Trump waited three hours to ask for protesters to leave. 

"Nancy Pelosi and the mayor are in charge," he shot back. "I assume they were able to do their job... if you remember I made a video right outside the Oval Office in the Rose Garden, and I'm very proud of that video I didn't have a script, I don't need scripts like a certain person," he added, the "certain person" being President Joe Biden. 

Trump also discussed the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed that day by Capitol Police, saying she did not deserve to die.  He then accused former Vice President Mike Pence of failing to send the decision regarding the 2020 election back to state legislatures. 

"He should have put the votes back to the state legislatures and I think we would have had a different outcome," Trump said, to audience applause. 

When asked if he would pardon Jan. 6 protesters, Trump said he would consider it for most of the attendees, especially if they did not commit any major crimes or infractions that day. 

"I'm not trying to justify anything. but you have two standards of justice in this country, and what they've done -- and I love that question because what they've done to so many people is nothing, nothing -- and then what they've done to these people, they persecuted these people. And yeah... my answer is, I am most likely, if I get in... I would say it will be a large portion of them," he said to more applause. "And they're living in hell right now."  

On the economy, Trump said he would make energy independence his main focus, saying that it would trickle down into other industries and help halt rapidly rising inflation. 

"Drill baby drill," he said. "We were energy independent. We were soon going to be energy dominant. And nobody had ever done what I did. We got oil down to $1.87, it actually fell lower than that in some cases, we had to save the oil companies... Probably the greatest economy in the history of the world. We were energy independent, soon to be energy dominant. We were going to be bigger than Russia and Saudi Arabia put together, times two. We have more liquid gold under our feet than any other nation, any other nation. And these stupid fools ended it, and energy went from $1.87 and even lower gasoline for cars. They went from $1.87 to 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and even $9. And your electricity bills went through the roof, your heating bills went through the roof. And that's what started inflation, and it hasn't stopped."

Trump also touted his regulation cuts, said his stance on China was correct from the beginning, and shamed pro-choice Democrats who support terminating pregnancies in the final month. 

"If you weren't able to get rid of -- you wouldn't even be having a discussion if you weren't able to get rid of -- Roe v Wade, which put pro-life in a dead position, a horrible position, they could kill the baby at anytime they wanted to," he said. "But we did something that nobody thought was doable."

On Ukraine, Trump indicated that his goal would be to end the war and insisted that to deem Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" would likely undermine any effort at peace. Trump argued that Putin would likely fight much harder to win the conflict if the West brands him a war criminal prior to the conflict's end.

Collins then asked Trump about the materials he took from the White House that the FBI later recovered from his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump asserts that he had the right to take the documents under the Presidential Records Act.

"I had every right to do it. I didn't make a secret of it," he insisted. 

Collins asserted that she had read the act and that it didn't empower Trump to do as he pleased, though the former president largely spoke over her and reiterated his interpretation of the act.

The CNN host further asked if Trump would commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election regardless of the outcome, to which Trump responded that he would if he believed the contest to be "honest."

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NGivasDC

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