President Donald Trump on Thursday turned a roundtable event on taxes into a campaign speech, rambling on about a range of issues, many of which he’d raised during his 2016 campaign, which ended 17 months ago.
In his opening remarks at the event in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the president briefly touched on taxes and the opioid epidemic, which has ravaged that state. But for the most part, he chose to air his grievances on a variety of topics and regurgitate a string of false claims.
At one point, he physically threw away his notes, saying that his prepared remarks “would have been a little boring.”
Here is a summary of the president’s other head-spinning remarks.
He attacked West Virginia’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin.
The roundtable was officially a policy event and not a campaign stop, yet Trump used the opportunity to lay into Manchin, who is up for re-election this year. He criticized the senator for not voting for the GOP tax overhaul.
“Your senator, he voted against, Joe, he votes against everything, and he voted against our tax cuts,” Trump said. “You’re going to have a chance to get a senator that’s going to vote [for] our program.”
He ranted about immigration, bringing up a series of false or exaggerated claims.
Riffing on this week’s announcement that he plans to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border ― a move that was likely inspired in part by a Fox News segment ― Trump made several spurious claims about the U.S. immigration system.
He falsely stated that the U.S. does not have merit-based immigration and exaggerated the scope of the diversity visa lottery system, complaining that the U.S. does not receive enough “good ones.”
He regurgitated some other classic lines from his campaign, such as his assertion that Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents detain undocumented immigrants by “throwing” them into “the paddy wagon.” He also suggested that the U.S. should reconsider the concept of birthright citizenship, an issue he first raised in 2015.
He suggested that because of illegal immigration, “women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”
Bringing up his infamous 2015 campaign announcement speech, when he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” Trump claimed without evidence that migrants who have been traveling through Mexico in a large group this week are responsible for rampant amounts of rape.
“I used the word ‘rape.’ And yesterday it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before,” he said. “They don’t want to mention that.”
Reporters traveling with the group said there were no reports of rape in the caravan.
Later Thursday, White House officials claimed that Trump was not referring specifically to this week’s caravan, but to previous reports of rape involving women migrating through Central America en route to the U.S.
“There is extensive and extreme victimization of those making the journey north with coyotes/smugglers in general,” a White House official told Fox News. “This has been widely reported for years.”
A 2014 investigation from Fusion found that 80 percent of women and girls journeying through Mexico with the hopes of reaching the U.S. are raped, according to interviews with directors of migrant shelters.
In 2010, Amnesty International estimated that “as many as six in 10 women and girl migrants experience sexual violence during the journey” from “criminal gangs, people traffickers, other migrants or corrupt officials.”
Both reports say that it’s difficult to find exact statistics because of the risks associated with reporting such crimes.
He repeated his unfounded and unsubstantiated claim that “millions and millions of people” voted illegally in 2016.
“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” Trump said, again without evidence. “They always like to say that’s a conspiracy theory. It’s not a conspiracy theory, folks.”
There is no evidence that double voting is a widespread problem in California or elsewhere in the country, and Trump has failed to offer any substantial evidence of voter fraud.
After taking office last year, Trump convened a White House commission to investigate his claim. Many states did not comply with the commission’s request for sensitive voter information, with some citing their own public disclosure laws, and the panel faced widespread criticism and several lawsuits alleging violations of federal law. In January, Trump disbanded the panel.
He invited roundtable participants to publicly praise him.
As he often does, the president called on other people seated at the table to lavish compliments on him.
Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), one of the GOP Senate candidates hoping to challenge Manchin this fall, described Trump as “a man keeping your promises” and told him that “I was a proud, early supporter of your candidacy.”
Another Senate candidate, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), lauded Trump for several achievements, including “focusing on the opioid epidemic with a laser beam.” Trump and his administration have actually provided few specifics on how they plan to address the crisis.
“The Trump administration is delivering,” Morrisey said.
This article has been updated with additional context and comments from White House officials.