President Trump, in a lengthy and contentious post-midterms press conference with reporters, touted Republicans’ expanded Senate majority and declared the party “defied history” compared with past elections — even as the GOP lost control of the House.
“It was a big day yesterday,” the president said during a nearly 90-minute press conference in the East Room of the White House. “Incredible day. And last night, the Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House.”
Trump emphasized how the number of Republican senators increased under him – unlike former President Barack Obama, who saw a loss of Democratic senators in his first midterm elections in 2010. That year, Democrats lost six seats in the Senate and lost 63 seats in the House.
“This election marks the largest Senate gains for a president’s party in a first midterm election since at least President Kennedy’s in 1962,” Trump said.
Republicans are on track to gain up to three seats in the Senate, while losing more than 26 seats in the House after Tuesday’s vote.
In gubernatorial races, Democrats made steady gains, expanding their power at the state level but nevertheless fell short in key contests where they had hoped to flip Republican seats.
Trump, during the press conference, took questions on a variety of topics and blamed the House losses on a combination of factors, including retirements of Republicans and incumbents who didn’t embrace him.
“We also had a staggering number of House retirements, so it’s a little tough,” Trump said. “These are seats that could have been held pretty easily.”
The president listed a number of Republicans who lost on Tuesday, faulting them for not embracing him and his agenda. Among those he mentioned were Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam and New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin.
“Mia Love gave me no love and she lost,” Trump said of the Utah congresswoman. “Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”
The president acknowledged that he could oust some people from the administration in the wake of the vote – though he didn’t list names of those he may fire. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is among those most frequently mentioned as a possible post-midterm departure.
“There’s no great secret,” Trump said. “A lot of administrations make changes after midterms. I will say that for the most part, I’m very very happy with this Cabinet.” The president also said he would consider some Republicans who lost in Tuesday’s elections for administration roles but he didn’t specify anyone.
The press conference turned testy with reporters at times. After an exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta, a frequent media foe, over the migrant caravan and the Russia investigation, the president lashed out at the reporter and told him he treats White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders unfairly. A White House aide tried to yank the microphone from Acosta’s hands.
“I think you should let me run the country and let you run CNN,” Trump told Acosta. “CNN should be ashamed for himself having you work for them. You are a rude terrible person.”
Trump accused another reporter of a “racist question” for asking if he was “emboldening” white nationalists for referring to himself as “nationalist.”
“That’s such a racist question…why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans?” Trump said, adding that her question was “so insulting to me.”
Facing the likelihood of investigations from a Democratic-controlled House, Trump said Wednesday that if Democrats pursue investigations, Republicans could return fire from the Senate. Trump said he would adopt a “warlike posture” if Democrats investigate him.
“They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” Trump said.
He added, “I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.”
In a humorous moment, a reporter asked Trump if he planned for Vice President Pence to be on his ticket in the 2020 election. Trump then turned toward Pence in the room, and asked, “Will you be my running mate?”