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Here are 6 of the most bizarre things Trump said in his infrastructure speech

Syria, North Korea, and Roseanne all came up.

President Trump Visits Union Training And Apprenticeship Center In Ohio Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

President Donald Trump traveled to Ohio on Thursday to tout his infrastructure plan, but couldn’t stop himself from talking about many seemingly unrelated topics.

Among his sidebars: taking credit for Roseanne’s TV ratings, claiming the US is pulling troops out of Syria, and bizarrely threatening to delay a bilateral trade deal with South Korea to get a better deal with North Korea. He also returned to his favorite hits, accusing the Democrats of being weak on border security, touting job numbers, and declaring that this is the “greatest economy we have ever had.”

Trump did get around to promoting his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, which calls for $200 billion in federal spending with the goal of leveraging the rest of the money from state and local funding and private spending. “We will transform our roads and bridges from a source of endless frustration into a source of incredible pride,” Trump said in the speech.

He also admitted it probably wouldn’t get done until after the midterms in November 2018. “We probably have to wait until after the election,” Trump said, “because the Democrats say, ‘Don’t give him any more wins!’”

But Trump, in typical fashion, made time for what he sees as his victories — “I’ve approved much more than I’ve promised,” he said Thursday — and embarked on a couple of rather alarming asides. Here’s a recap of some of his speech’s most bizarre moments:

1) The border wall makes Trump nostalgic for his old life

Trump was unhappy that he didn’t get full funding for his border wall in the omnibus spending bill last week. But on Thursday, Trump bragged about the $1.6 billion he did get (even though the law refers to the wall as “fencing.”)

He accused Democrats of wanting “people to come in from the border. They want, I guess, want — I can’t imagine they want — but certainly drugs are flowing across borders.”

“We started building our wall. I’m so proud of it. We have $1.6 billion,” he continued. “And we’ve already started. You saw the pictures yesterday, and I said, ‘what a thing of beauty.’ And on September 28, we go further. And we’re getting that sucker built.”

Trump seems to be referring to a misleading tweet he sent Wednesday, which showed workers replacing an existing structure on the border. The work began last month, according to the Guardian, before any new funding for fencing.

“The wall looks good. It’s properly designed,” Trump continued. “That’s what I do, I build. I was good at building, it was my best thing. Better than being president, I was good at building.”

Again, construction on Trump’s border fencing hasn’t started, and the $1.6 billion that goes to it in the omnibus spending bill doesn’t really go to Trump’s wall, as Vox’s Dara Lind explained:

Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans have insisted that the bill funds the wall. As policy, they’re right — there’s no reason that President Trump couldn’t take credit for building a few dozen miles of fencing as “continuing to build the wall.”

But, crucially, the bill specifically prevents the Trump administration from using any of the new wall designs it commissioned and tested in California last year. All money has to be spent on “operationally effective designs deployed as of the date of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017” — a bill Trump signed on May 5, 2017.

2) Trump lambasts America’s allies

Trump brought up his steel and aluminum tariffs, which have threatened to spark a trade war with America’s allies. This didn’t seem to bother Trump before, and it doesn’t seem to bother him now:

“We are not letting other countries take advantage of us,” Trump said. “Even our friends took advantage — they are wonderful people, but we said, ‘you can’t do that anymore.’ Those days are over. Frankly, our friends did more damage than our enemies because we did not deal with our enemies. We dealt with our friends and we dealt incompetently.”

3) Is Trump confusing North and South Korea?

The Trump administration revised a bilateral trade deal this week with South Korea, something that was seen as a reaffirmation of the partnership between the two countries ahead of upcoming summits with North Korea.

Trump knocked the previous deal, blaming it on Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time. (The original trade deal received bipartisan support in Congress.)

“Just this week we secured a wonderful deal with South Korea,” Trump said. “We were in a deal that was a horror show. It was going to produce 200,000 jobs, and it did, for them. That was a Hillary Clinton special, I hate to say it.”

As the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale pointed out, this figure is inaccurate:

But after praising his administration’s great dealmaking with South Korea, Trump seemed to indicate that he would hold up the trade agreement — somehow, inexplicably, winning them leverage with North Korea.

“I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea. Does everybody understand that?” Trump said. “You know why? It is a very strong card, and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly, and we are moving along nicely with North Korea.”

Trump appears to be implying that South Korea is somehow going to undercut them in negotiations with North Korea, though the two countries are supposed to be on the same side. A renewed trade agreement would, ostensibly, help bolster a unified front in talks with North Korea.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump continued. “The rhetoric has calmed down a little bit. Maybe it will be good and maybe — if it is no good we are walking, and if it is good, we will embrace it. ... South Korea has been wonderful, and we’ll hold it up and see where it plays out. We are keeping our promises, and the results are in, three million new jobs since Election Day.”

4) Tired of all the winning

“We have the greatest economy, maybe ever in history,” Trump said. “The greatest economy we have ever had.”

“If we didn’t win, the economy would be a wreck,” he added. “They would have added regulations. You wouldn’t have two, three million jobs, you probably go negative.”

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias explained, the Trump economy is arguably an extension of a boom that began in the Obama years.

5) Trump claims the US is leaving Syria — which, if true, would be a pretty big deal

Trump bragged America’s victory over ISIS in his infrastructure speech, and in what seemed like an impromptu aside, announced a potentially huge foreign policy development. “By the way, we are knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria very soon,” Trump said.

“Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump declared. “We are going to have 100 percent of the caliphate as they call it, sometimes referred to as land — we are taking it all back quickly. Quickly. We are going to be coming out of there real soon, we’re going to get back to our country.”

The US has about 2,000 troops in Syria, and in a letter from February, the Pentagon indicated that US forces could be there “indefinitely” because of the threat ISIS posed, even with its territorial loses.

Trump’s seemingly off-the-cuff announcement that the US planned to withdraw troops also seemed to be met with surprise in the State Department. Heather Nauert, a State Department spokesperson, said the department was unaware of any plans to pull troops out of Syria.

Trump did find a way to tie back the offensive against ISIS to infrastructure. “We spend $7 trillion in the Middle East,” Trump said. “We build a school, they blow it up. We build a school, they blow it up.”

Trump has cited the $7 trillion figure before, which is not even close to accurate. It is off by a few trillion; the US spent about $1.8 trillion in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria between 2001 and 2017.

Trump also expressed one of his old frustrations that the US should have plundered oil from the Middle East, which happens to be a war crime: “If we kept the oil, we would’ve been okay? If we kept the oil, we wouldn’t have ISIS! ... They kept the oil, we didn’t keep the oil! Stupid! Stupid!”

6) Trump takes credit for Roseanne ratings

Trump loves following TV ratings, and apparently he’s taking credit for the success of the return of Roseanne. The show’s creator, Roseanne Barr, has voiced support for Trump and plays the titular character, who defends the president on the show.

“Even look at Roseanne. I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings. Look at her ratings,” Trump said. “I got a call from Mark Burnett, he did The Apprentice, he’s a great guy. He said I called just to say hello and to tell you did you see Roseanne’s ratings. I said, ‘Mark, how big were they?’ They were unbelievable, over 18 million people, and it was about us.”

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