Despite national outcry at his pressuring the Ukrainian President to investigate his political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump wasn't afraid to call on Chinese officials to investigate Biden as well. Trump urged officials to do so while speaking to reporters on the White House lawn.
When Americans across the country called him out, Trump's Republican allies assured them that Trump was only joking.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that Trump was just "needling the press" to "get everybody fired up."
This morning in the Florida Keys, @marcorubio was asked about the President calling on China to investigate… https://t.co/amCsXTM3gX— Jim DeFede (@Jim DeFede)1570208625.0
Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) followed Rubio's lead, asking "You really think he was serious?"
Rep. Jim Jordan claims Trump wasn't being serious about asking China and Ukraine to investigate Biden https://t.co/FFrwKGPi8V— TPM Livewire (@TPM Livewire)1570396499.0
So when speaking with Trump on the White House lawn again on Thursday afternoon, reporters asked him flat out: Were you joking when you called on China to investigate Biden? His answer was telling.
President Trump: "China has to do whatever they want. If they want to look into something, they can look into it. I… https://t.co/ly7PXbaj8K— The Hill (@The Hill)1570762200.0
Trump made it clear that he wasn't joking, telling reporters:
"China has to do whatever they want. If they want to look into something, they can look into it. If they don't want to look into it, they don't have to. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, I think that's great, and if they don't want to, I think that's great too."
Though he was certainly less forceful in endorsing a Chinese investigation into his potential 2020 opponent than he was the week prior, Trump said it would be "great" if China wanted to look into something before conceding that it's "great too" if they choose not to.
It wasn't long before Rubio began walking back his statement, accusing journalists of mischaracterizing him and promising that he never said the President was joking, but that it wasn't a "serious" request.
Some taking liberty of reporting I said Trump was “joking” or “kidding” about Biden & China I said wasn’t “serious… https://t.co/V75emVDKxf— Marco Rubio (@Marco Rubio)1570813432.0
But people were pretty certain that Trump was, in fact, serious.
@ddale8 Does that ever sound like something a gangster/mob boss would say! “I mean, like, it’s your choice. Do what… https://t.co/AuZHPNySgI— N. J. Lindquist (@N. J. Lindquist)1570744967.0
@ddale8 He’s never joking. He has no sense of humor.— Schatzie (@Schatzie)1570753210.0
@ddale8 He's the world's worst comedian— a bloo (@a bloo)1570741306.0
The response basically threw Rubio and Jordan's theories under the bus.
@ddale8 Hi @marcorubio. Excited to hear your response! Is this comment a joke about the joke? An extra layer of t… https://t.co/Nye4SLsuNC— Old Rant Dump (@Old Rant Dump)1570741496.0
@ddale8 https://t.co/DYJEeLmLmQ— darth™ (@darth™)1570741614.0
@ddale8 Of course he wasn't joking. Rubio and Jordan are constantly proven to be clowns.— Sean Beaulieu (@Sean Beaulieu)1570749570.0
@ddale8 Oh. Well that's awkward @marcorubio and Gym Jordan #AmIRight?— MegPat (@MegPat)1570741460.0
The "joking" or "trolling" defense is constantly used by Trump's enablers whenever he says or does something outrageous.
He’s trolling - that’s obvious. https://t.co/BMXtrFpvvr— Megyn Kelly (@Megyn Kelly)1570474209.0
Trump’s trolling game is, by itself, a good enough reason to re-elect him https://t.co/un6OzjtXhl— Ryan Saavedra (@Ryan Saavedra)1570228593.0
Trump is literally the master of trolling the media. All he has to do is send ONE tweet about George Conway & 100%… https://t.co/bryNNMR1is— Liz Wheeler (@Liz Wheeler)1553109194.0
But why on earth is trolling an admirable quality in the leader of the free world?
My favorite Trump defense. You know President of US is spending his time trolling people on social media to get a l… https://t.co/lZFV9YUO0R— Cenk Uygur (@Cenk Uygur)1570469701.0
People who excuse trump's insane screeds as just him "trolling" guess what I DO NOT WANT A PRESIDENT WHO IS A TROLL… https://t.co/uSXfwVOhtY— Leslie Grossman (@Leslie Grossman)1570474818.0
I don't know if I should be more panicked that the president is clearly out of his gourd, or that a third of the co… https://t.co/laX98fqkh9— Schooley (@Schooley)1570467257.0
Somebody ask Marco Rubio.