WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday that being president will personally cost him billions of dollars, due in part to the lawyers he has had to hire to defend him in various lawsuits.
“This thing is costing me a fortune, being president,” Trump said during a speech at the Shell Petrochemical plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.
“Somebody said, ‘Oh, he might have rented a room to a man from Saudi Arabia for $500,’” Trump said, referring to reports that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and members of his delegation booked multiple nights in a Trump hotel.
“What about the $5 billion that I’ll lose?” Trump asked, noting his high cost of lawyers “cause everyday they sue me for something.”
“It’s probably costing me from $3 to $5 billion for the privilege of being — and I couldn’t care less—I don’t care. You know if you’re wealthy, it doesn’t matter. I just want to do a great job,” Trump added.
These figures are virtually impossible to check; the president has not released his tax returns, and has been found in the past to exaggerate his own wealth.
Trump also took aim at former President Barack Obama. “I got sued on a thing called ’emoluments,’” Trump said. “Now nobody looks at Obama getting $60 million for a book. That’s OK, even though nobody in history ever got that much money for a book. … But with me, it’s everything.”
Barack Obama and Michelle Obama signed a joint book deal for $65 million in 2017, after Obama had left office. The emoluments clause applies to federal officeholders, not private citizens.
Speaking to a room full of factory workers in a state that he narrowly carried in 2016, Trump joked about how easy re-election would be if he “got a fair press.”
“Can you imagine if I got a fair press? I mean we’re leading without it,” Trump said. “The election would be over. Have they ever called off an election before? Just said, ‘Look, let’s go, go on, four more years.”
Trump then made light of creating a joke twitter hashtag that he said would disturb reporters, telling the crowd if “you really want to drive them crazy, go to #ThirdTerm, #FourthTerm.”
Although the Shell Plant was an official White House event, not a campaign event, Trump launched his usual trail attack against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is running for president and has recently surged in primary polls.
“We will have to hit ‘Pocahontas’ again if she does win,” Trump said, using his favored nicknames for both the Massachusetts senator and former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner in the polls whom Trumps refers to as “Sleepy Joe.”
The White House had looked to showcase the massive construction project the president was there to tour as a symbol of the Trump economy in a key swing state. When complete, the facility is projected to employ about 500 workers who will make plastic pellets from ethane, a byproduct of fracking, that can be turned into a range of plastic goods, from food packaging to car parts.
The visit gave Trump an opportunity to get back on the offensive after a week of defending his divisive rhetoric and approach to gun control policy after the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.
Shell began preparing the site for construction in 2015 and officially started construction in November 2017.
Shannon Pettypiece and Jane C. Timm contributed.
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