- President Donald Trump held a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
- He spoke with the press for roughly an hour and a half during the meeting.
- Trump discussed the government shutdown, the border wall, incoming Sen. Mitt Romney, the military withdrawal from Syria, former Defence Secretary James Mattis, the stock market, and more.
President Donald Trump kicked off 2019 with a wild, scattershot Cabinet meeting Wednesday that hit on a range of topics, including funding the long-promised wall on the US-Mexico border and the similarities between US generals and Tom Cruise.
During the roughly hour-and-a-half meeting in the White House, Trump took questions from reporters after a relatively quiet holiday break.
The president weighed in on a variety of topics, including:
- The government shutdown: Trump said the government should stay shut down until Democrats accept his demands for more than $US5 billion in border-wall funding. The shutdown is now in its twelfth day, and congressional leaders are set to meet with Trump on Wednesday.
- His Christmas plans: The president also complained that the shutdown forced him to stay at the White House over Christmas. "I was here on Christmas evening, I was all by myself in the White House," he said. "That's a big, big house. Except for all the guys out on the lawn with machine guns. I was waving to them. I never saw so many guys with machine guns in my life." First Lady Melania Trump flew back to the White House to spend Christmas with her husband.
- The decision to pull troops out of Syria: Trump declined to give a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Syria, but reiterated his decision to do so. "So Syria was lost long ago. It was lost long ago. Besides that, we're talking about sand and death," Trump said. "That's what we're talking about. We're not talking about vast wealth, we're talking about sand and death."
- The stock market: Trump dismissed the stock market's terrible December, blaming the historic monthly drop on a "little glitch." The president also predicted that stocks will head higher once the US negotiates updates to a variety of trade deals.
- The departure of former Secretary of Defence James Mattis:
- Trump criticised Mattis, the recently departed secretary of defence, complaining about the former Marine Corps general's handling of Afghanistan. "What's he done for me? How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good," Trump said.
- The president also claimed he "essentially" fired Mattis, contradicting White House assertions that the defence secretary stepped down. Mattis disagreed with Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
- The need to release reports on the status of the Afghanistan mission to the public: Trump criticised the public release of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reports, which provide oversight of efforts to rebuild the country. "We're fighting wars, and they're doing reports and releasing it to the public. Now, the public means the enemy," he said. "The enemy reads those reports. They study every line of it."
- The ongoing dialogue with North Korea: Trump said the US has made a lot of progress in talks with North Korea's Kim Jung Un despite lingering questions about the country's commitment to denuclearization. "We've established a very good relationship, we're given no credit for it," Trump said. "Frankly if this administration didn't take place, if another administration came in instead of this administration ... you'd be at war right now, you'd be having a nice, big, fat war in Asia."
- Mitt Romney's op-ed: Trump hit back at incoming Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who criticised the president in an op-ed for The Washington Post on Tuesday. "I don't know if he's going to become a team player. I hope he does. If he does, it will be better for him I think people are upset with what he did," Trump said. "He's not even in office yet, he's not gotten to office. He was very happy when I endorsed him. So you know, I don't know what changed."
- The similarities US generals share with Tom Cruise: While addressing the topic of Iran's influence in the Middle East, Trump favourably compared US military leaders to movie star Tom Cruise. "When I became president, I had a meeting at the Pentagon with lots of generals," Trump said. "They were like from a movie, better-looking than Tom Cruise - and stronger."