Former President Donald Trump revealed his strategy to pay down the national debt without touching entitlements, the global consequences of President Joe Biden’s exit from Afghanistan and other issues Tuesday night.
Trump had a live town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity Tuesday night in Davenport, Iowa less than a month before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15.
The Trump town hall occurred one night before other Republican presidential candidates were set to square off in the fourth debate on Wednesday.
Here are the key highlights from the town hall event.
1. ‘You’re Not Going to be a Dictator, Are You?’
Hannity sited several left-leaning media outlets and Democrat politicians that claimed Trump sought to become a dictator if elected to a second term.
“They want to call you a dictator,” Hannity said.
“To be clear, do you in any way have any plans whatsoever if reelected president to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people?” Hannity asked.
Trump responded by saying that is what the Biden administration is doing to him.
“Like they’re doing right now?” Trump said. “In the history of our country what’s happened to us, again, has never happened before over nonsense, over nothing, made up charges.”
He noted that mob boss Al Capone was only indicted once.
“I got indicted four times. I wonder what my father and mother would say looking down,” Trump said.
Trump talked about green energy schemes the Biden administration is pushing and pledged to make the U.S. energy independent.
“We are going to do things. We will close the border, day one. The border gets closed,” Trump said. “Day one and a half we drill. Drill, baby, drill. Drill, drill, drill. And probably on day two we will get rid of this ridiculous electric car mandate.”
Hannity asked again, “You are not going to be a dictator, are you?”
Trump joked: “I love this guy. He says, ‘You’re not going to be a dictator, are you? I say no, no, no, other than day one. We are closing the border and drilling, drilling, drilling. Other than that I am not a dictator.”
The Biden campaign in an X post reposted by the Democratic National Committee, capitalized, asserting that Trump would be a dictator on day one.
2. Drilling Down the Debt
Trump said drilling and energy independence would help pay down the national debt.
“We were doing energy, taking our liquid gold out of the ground at a rate that has never been seen before.”
He said under his administration, the United States was producing as much oil as Saudi Arabia. Trump added, “We would have been paying off debt.”
“We’ve never seen anything like it. We were starting to get along and then we got hit with the China virus,” Trump said of the economy before the COVID-19 pandemic. “Some people think purposely. I don’t. I think it was incompetence. We were doing so much better than any other country ever and we got hit. I will tell you we would be paying that debt off now at levels never seen before. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Hannity sought clarity.
“You are saying that you in a second term, you will push America to be the most energy dominant country on earth and that you can pay down that $34 trillion in debt and we won’t have a trillion dollar interest payment every year?” the host asked.
Trump said this would prevent needing to address Social Security. Entitlement spending is currently the largest driver of the national debt.
“You don’t have to touch Social Security,” Trump said. “We have money laying in the ground far greater than anything we can do by hurting senior citizens with their Social Security.”
3. Afghanistan Consequences
Trump blasted the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We are a declining country. We are laughed at all over the world. People respected us three years ago and you wouldn’t have Ukraine and Russia,” Trump said. “You wouldn’t have had the attack on Israel. You wouldn’t have had that withdrawal.”
Trump noted his administration would have exited Afghanistan differently.
“You would have withdrawn but we would have withdrawn from Afghanistan with tremendous strength and power. That’s the way I had it set up,” Trump said. “In Afghanistan we didn’t lose a soldier. Many soldiers were being killed by snipers and others during the Obama administration and Biden was there. I guess he wasn’t doing so much other than collecting cash probably.”
Trump noted that the Taliban had access to $85 billion in U.S. military equipment. He said this encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.
“They have Americans that we didn’t even get out. It was like a surrender. After that Russia said, you know, these people are incompetent. They are overrated,” Trump said. “They went in and attacked Ukraine. That never would have happened. I use to speak to Vladimir Putin. I was the apple of his eye. Ukraine, I said don’t do it. Don’t do it. I won’t tell you exactly, but it was tough. He said you wouldn’t do that. I said, yes, I will. No, you won’t do it. He didn’t believe me but he believe me 10%. That’s all he had to believe me and he didn’t do anything. He never did anything.”
4. Biden Corruption Allegations
Hannity asked about the allegations of Biden family influence peddling. The House Oversight and Accountability Committee released bank records showing direct payments to Joe Biden before he was president linked to family business ventures.
The committee released bank records that showed at least $20 million went from foreign individual and entities to shell companies owned by Biden family members.
Three House committees are conducting an impeachment inquiry into the Biden.
White House spokesman Ian Sams posted earlier Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that House Republicans are only seeking a Biden impeachment to have a win, as he linked to news coverage.
Hannity talked about the testimony of first son Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer about Biden’s actions while he was vice president.
“We know according to Devon Archer he was on phone calls,” Hannity said. “We know he was meeting with oligarchs like the former first lady of Moscow at Café Milano. It doesn’t seem to get the attention in the media that anything involving you gets. What is your reaction to both?”
Trump talked about a double standard.
“Someone said you must be the most honest guy in the world. After all these years they saw my tax returns, they saw everything,” Trump said.
Trump told Hannity that former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat who died in 2009, once told him that Biden was the dumbest of his colleagues.
Trump went on to talk about a double standard by media coverage of himself and Biden, and referenced the 2020 presidential debate.
“The media is fake. I came up with that term a long time ago and they won’t talk about it,” Trump said. “If I did some of the things that he did, they would reinstitute the death penalty. OK. They don’t want to talk about it. When he gets paid $3.5 million from the mayor of Moscow’s wife. When I brought it up at a debate and Chris Wallace was moderating. How is he doing by the way? Not too good. What happened to Chris Wallace? I said why is he getting $3.5 million? I want to ask him that question. Chris Wallace interceded.”
Trump added: “Now it’s a big subject. I talked about it literally three years ago. Why does all this money come in from China?”
In February 2014, Russian billionaire Yelena Baturina transferred $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton, a shell company with ties to Hunter Biden and his partner Devon Archer. Part of that was used to initially fund a new company account, Rosemont Seneca Bohai.
In July, Archer testified to the House committee that while Biden was vice president, he showed up for a dinner with Hunter Biden’s business associates that included Baturina.
“During Joe Biden’s vice presidency, Hunter Biden sold him as ‘the brand’ to reap millions from oligarchs in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine,” House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said in a public statement about the new bank records. “It appears no real services were provided other than access to the Biden network, including Joe Biden himself.”
The Russian billionaire attended the dinner at Café Milano along with then-Vice President Joe Biden.
George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, told CNN that, “Hunter Biden had no interest in and was not a ‘co-founder’ of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false.”
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