Trump tells GOP retreat he's ready for Mount Rushmore

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump appeared to be in a jovial mood at a GOP retreat in West Virginia on Thursday, boasting about how his administration has “fulfilled far more promises than we’ve promised.” And without quite saying so himself, he claimed Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, once told him that he is “the greatest president in the history of our country.”

“And I said, ‘Does that include Lincoln and Washington?’” Trump recalled. “And he said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I love this guy.’”

A spokesman for Hatch told a reporter for the Guardian newspaper that the senator has said Trump “can be” the greatest president ever to hold the office, but never said he “is” the greatest ever.

Trump’s remarks at the annual gathering of Republican members of Congress at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V., came a day after the train taking lawmakers there hit a dump truck, killing one of the vehicle’s occupants.

The president extended prayers to those affected by the train accident before launching into a freewheeling speech that elaborated on the themes of Tuesday’s State of the Union address — with Trump veering off the script numerous times during his 35-minute talk.

Trump boasted about the accomplishments of his administration’s first year.

President Trump pauses while speaking at the 2018 House and Senate Republican Member Conference at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

“That was one of the greatest years in the history of politics,” Trump said. “We had a year that was unlike, I think, any.”

Trump then lauded himself for what he said were campaign promises kept, including the passage of tax reform, the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate and the lifting of a ban on drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or “ANWR.” The latter two were provisions included in the GOP tax bill.

“We’ve fulfilled far more promises than we’ve promised,” the president said. “I call it promises plus.”

Trump called for the creation of more vocational schools to supplement the economy with skilled workers, but seemed to mix them up with community colleges.

“When I was growing up, we had vocational schools,” the president recalled. “I remember I was in high school, and there were people in class, I remember one person in particular, he wasn’t, like, the greatest student. He just wasn’t. And I saw him one day and he was able to fix a car blindfolded.

“I think the word ‘vocational’ is a much better word than, in many cases, a community college,” he continued. “A lot of people don’t know what a community college means or represents.”

Related: Trump’s 1st State of the Union vs. Obama’s: By the numbers

Later, while discussing immigration, Trump called for a permanent fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an expiring Obama-era program shielding undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children — so-called Dreamers — from deportation.

President Trump, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., addresses the Republican congressional retreat at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“I’ve been hearing about DACA for so many years, some people call it Dreamers,” Trump said. “It’s not Dreamers, don’t fall into that trap.”

The president then reiterated a quote from his State of the Union.

“I said the other night, ‘We have Dreamers in our country too,’” he said.

“We’re either going to have something that’s fair and equitable, or we’re going to have nothing at all.”

Earlier Thursday, Trump falsely claimed that the 45.6 million television viewers for his first State of the Union address was “the highest number in history.” According to Nielsen, an estimated 45.6 million people tuned in to watch Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night — millions less than the number who watched President Barack Obama’s and President George W. Bush’s first State of the Union addresses, in 2010 and 2002, and about a quarter-million less than President Bill Clinton’s first State of the Union in 1994.

Trump did not mention the ratings at the retreat. He criticized Democrats for not clapping during his State of the Union address, particularly when he made a claim about African-American unemployment. Trump asserted that the unemployment rate for African-Americans is the lowest ever, but observers have pointed out that it has been declining for years.

“When I made that statement the other night, there was zero movement from the Democrats,” the president said. “They sat there stone cold, no smile, no applause. You would’ve thought on that one they would’ve at least clapped a little bit.”

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