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Trump holds presser on NAFTA replacement, praises Kavanaugh, and defends tariffs

President Donald Trump takes questions during a news conference Monday to discuss a revised U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. U.S. and Canadian officials announced late Sunday night that a new deal, named the 'U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,' or USMCA, had been reached to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

During a sometimes wild and contentious news conference on Monday, President Donald Trump praised his new USMCA trade deal, tariffs, and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

What about the trade deal?

The purpose of this news conference was to highlight the rollout of the USMCA, the replacement deal for NAFTA that the U.S. and Canada agreed to on Sunday.

Trump said that he was confident that the USMCA would pass Congress, although he hedged a bit by adding that Democratic members of Congress would purposely vote against something if they thought it would benefit Republicans.

What did the president say about Kavanaugh?

After answering questions about the USMCA, Trump agreed to repeated requests by reporters to answer questions regarding Kavanaugh.

"You want to get off trade. You people are falling asleep with trade. To me it's the most exciting thing you can talk about," he said.

Trump criticized the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh, saying that what Kavanaugh has "gone through the last three weeks is incredible."

Trump insisted that he would not hold back the FBI, and that the agency would do whatever the Senate thought fit.

"I think the FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answer," he said.

He also praised Kavanaugh for admitting his struggles with alcohol, and remarked on his own personal commitment to not drink.

"I'm not a drinker," Trump said. "I can honestly say, I've never had a beer in my life. That's one of my only good traits....Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I'd be? I'd be the world's worst."

Referencing how Kavanaugh was criticized for his actions in high school, Trump said that some of the senators themselves were "not angels." When he was asked about that later in the news conference, Trump refused to clarify.

"I think I'll save it for a book like everybody else and I'll write it. OK? I'm not giving it to you," he said.

He took time to praise his tariffs

Trump also took time to defend his administration's tariffs, and to criticize "babies out there," including members of Congress, who had criticized the tariffs. He also singled out those who bashed the tariffs because they weren't "free trade."

He argued that "because of the power of tariffs, and the power that we have with tariffs, we, in many cases, won't even have to use them. That's how powerful they are, and how good they are."

Trump also seemed to blame the Great Depression on the end of U.S. tariffs and the recovery on its reimplementation.

"Everybody talked about the tariffs 'oh, the tariffs.' you know, tariffs ended in 1913. And they then went to a different system in 1918, totally unrelated. And then in 1928, you had the Great Depression. For a lot of different reasons, not necessarily our country's fault, but a little bit our country's fault. And then, in the 1930s, they said 'we better start charging some tariffs. We need money to come into our country again, OK?"

The Great Depression began in October of 1929, after a number of factors caused the stock market to crash. The Hoover administration's Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, referenced by Trump, caused other nations around the world to enact a flurry of tariffs that drove American exports from $5.5 billion to $1.7 billion over a three-year period. In 1934, FDR would reduce the levels of these tariffs. The Depression would continue until 1939.

Trump said that he add an additional $267 billion in tariffs, against China "and China wants to talk, very badly. and I said, very frankly it's too early to talk. Can't talk now. Because they're not ready. Because they've been ripping us for so many years."

"I'm using them to negotiate," he added. "We have a lot of catching up to do with China. You know, when they drain us for $500 billion a year, which is probably the real number, and that's not including the theft of intellectual property and other things. And a lot of people say 'that's hard to value,' but a lot of people say that could be around $300 billion a year. That's a tremendous — you just can't let that happen."

It's unclear where Trump got the $500 billion number from. Earlier in the news conference, he had referenced the $375 billion trade deficit that the U.S. has with China last year.

One last thing…
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