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 @JoeBiden – see his answer 👇@CBSMiami @MiamiHerald @alextdaugherty @MarcACaputo @PatriciaMazzei pic.twitter.com/3t1nTMWixn
— Jim DeFede (@DeFede) October 4, 2019
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 pic.twitter.com/FFrwKGPi8V
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) October 6, 2019
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. If they don't want to look into it, they don't have to." pic.twitter.com/WoNblDwrmm
— The Hill (@thehill) October 11, 2019
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” request. Stand by it 100%.
Find use of “joking” or “kidding” in my statement
Describe what potential legal consequences this poses for Biden or son
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 11, 2019
But people were pretty certain that Trump was, in fact, serious.
Does that ever sound like something a gangster/mob boss would say! “I mean, like, it’s your choice. Do whatever you want. But you know what’s good for you.”
— N. J. Lindquist (@NJ_Lindquist) October 10, 2019
He’s never joking. He has no sense of humor.
— Schatzie (@elizabethdoyle) October 11, 2019
He's the world's worst comedian
— a bloo (@vlime286) October 10, 2019
The response basically threw Rubio and Jordan’s theories under the bus.
Excited to hear your response!
Is this comment a joke about the joke? An extra layer of trolling hilarity? I bet it is! He's such a wit!
The media just keep sucking it up, don't they!https://t.co/zgL7zvxLQk
— Old Rant Dump (@TrumpinTheShark) October 10, 2019
Of course he wasn't joking. Rubio and Jordan are constantly proven to be clowns.
— Sean Beaulieu (@seanbaloo) October 10, 2019
The “joking” or “trolling” defense is constantly used by Trump’s enablers whenever he says or does something outrageous.
Trump’s trolling game is, by itself, a good enough reason to re-elect him https://t.co/un6OzjtXhl
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) October 4, 2019
Trump is literally the master of trolling the media. All he has to do is send ONE tweet about George Conway & 100% of the MSM coverage is obsessed with that story. Brilliant. The MSM are so easy to manipulate.
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) March 20, 2019
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 laugh?! He's trying to provoke a reaction by saying things that are insane. You really believe this is best use of a president's time, even if it were remotely true? https://t.co/vPaiVhsgOu
— Cenk Uygur (@cenkuygur) October 7, 2019
People who excuse trump's insane screeds as just him "trolling" guess what I DO NOT WANT A PRESIDENT WHO IS A TROLL he an 8chan comment that has become sentient and it's fucking dangerous and terrifying I WANT A PRESIDENT WHO IS A KIND NERD
— Leslie Grossman (@MissLeslieG) October 7, 2019
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 country loves that he is precisely because it panics people like me.
— Schooley (@Rschooley) October 7, 2019
Somebody ask Marco Rubio.