President Donald Trump delivered a free-wheeling, campaign-style speech at the National Republican Congressional Committee's annual spring dinner Tuesday -- taking swipes at a potential rival in former Vice President Joe Biden, and continuing his calls for Republicans to be champions of pre-existing conditions after punting the health care battle until after the 2020 presidential election.
In the early stages of his re-election bid, Trump seemed to revel that Biden is being “taken care of” among the teeming field of 2020 presidential competitors.
“We’re going into the war with some socialist. It looks like the only non, sort of, heavy socialist is being taken care of pretty well by the socialists, they got to him, our former vice president. I was going to call him, I don’t know him well, I was going to say ‘Welcome to the world Joe, you having a good time?’” the president said.
The president’s crack at Biden comes as the political fixture in Democratic politics, who is mulling a possible White House run in 2020, faces allegations of improper touching from two women.
Despite facing his own allegations by multiple women of sexual harassment and misconduct, the president took a second swipe at Biden later in the speech as he recalled a time he wanted to kiss a general who offered him a swift timeline for the defeat of ISIS, saying they could be defeated within a week’s time.
“I said general, come here, give me a kiss, I felt like Joe Biden, but I meant it,” Trump told the laughing crowd.
As the field of contenders hoping to unseat Trump continues to grow, the president made clear Tuesday night that he has every intention of putting the issue of health care front and center in the 2020 presidential race, even if he doesn't intend for the Republican Party to vote on it until after the election.
The president said members of Congress, along with the White House, are in the process of developing a “great health care plan” and that, whether they like it or not, Republicans will champion the issue of covering people with pre-existing conditions in the 2020 election.
“The Republican Party will be the champion of pre-existing conditions, you have to do it, some of you like, some of you don’t, but you’re going to have to like it, not just for politics, it’s the right thing,” Trump said.
The president outlined his political plan and encouraged members to run on the plan, with the understanding that it will be their first vote should Republicans win back the House and Trump be reelected.
“I will ask that this be my first vote immediately after the election,” Trump said, predicting that the Republicans will “regain the House because of health care and other things,” such as the border.
“We’re going to promise the people that if you vote for us, and if you vote for you, all of you running, it’s going to happen,” Trump said.
Even as he acknowledged that some in his party did not welcome his embrace of health care as a central issue heading into 2020, the president doubled down on his belief that it can be a winning issue for Republicans in the next election.
“You’re going to win your elections because of health care, and a lot of people were upset with me,” Trump said. “It's a great incentive for the voters to vote for you."
While earlier in the day, the president shifted to a wait-and-see approach on a potential border shutdown, Trump claimed on stage at the dinner that he is letting up on the threat for now because he claims Mexico apprehended over a 1,000 people at its southern border today.
“I really wanted to close it, now Mexico saying is no no no, the first time in decades, we will not let anybody through, and they’ve apprehended over a thousand people today, at their southern border and they’re bringing them back to their countries,” Trump claimed.
ABC News has yet to find any evidence backing up the president’s claim of an increased effort by Mexico to apprehend migrants. Neither the administration, nor Mexican officials, have provided such information.
The president also recalled his announcement speech, when he says he “mentioned the word rape” and now says the speech is “tame” compared to what’s actually happened.
“Now you look at that speech and you see what’s happening and that speech was so tame compared to what is happening now, that trek up is one of the great treacherous treks anywhere, and Mexico has now, because they don’t want the border closed,” Trump said.
In his announcement speech, Trump accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The president headlined the dinner for the Republican's campaign arm, which focuses on electing Republicans to the House. Looking ahead to the potential for Republicans to gain back ground after Democrats won back the House in the 2018 midterms by the largest margin since Watergate, the president said he is “totally confident” that Republicans will take back the House in 2020. He also suggested that some close congressional races have been rigged against Republicans and advised his party to be "more paranoid" about the issue.
“There were a lot of close elections, they seemed every single one of them went Democrat. There’s something going on fellas. You’ve got to be a little more paranoid than you are,” he told the room. “We’ve got to be a little more careful because I don’t like the way the votes are being tallied. You don’t like it either but you don’t want to say it because you’re afraid of the press.”