9 Key Moments From Trump's CNN Town Hall

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Former President Donald Trump took his talents to CNN on Wednesday night, answering questions from moderator Kaitlan Collins and New Hampshire independent voters.


Here are six key moments (scroll down for my takeaways from the town hall):

1. Trump doubled down on his claim that the 2020 election was rigged

Not surprisingly, the CNN moderator immediately went after Trump for denying the results of the election. “You still have not acknowledged the 2020 election results, but you are also under active federal investigation for trying to overturn the 2020 election results,” Collins said. “Your first term ended with a deadly riot at the Capitol, and you still have not publicly acknowledged the 2020 election results. Why should Americans put you back in the White House?”

Related: Trump’s Achilles’ Heel

Trump replied, “I think that when you look at that result, and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happened. A lot of the people—out of the people in this audience and maybe a couple that don’t—but most people understand what happened was a rigged election. And it’s a shame that we had to go through it. It’s very bad for our country. All over the world, they looked at it and they saw exactly what everyone else [saw].”

2. He defended his actions on January 6, 2020, and he didn’t hold back when asked about it

Trump pulled out notes with Twitter and Truth Social posts he made that day calling for peaceful protests.


3. The former president defended pushing then-Vice President Mike Pence to send the Electoral College votes back to the states

Pence “made a mistake. His lawyer said, ‘You cannot move.’ I call them the human conveyor belt. I said, even if the votes… are absolutely fraudulent, he can say yes, or he can [send them back]… and the Democrats played it and the RINOs played it. And then the election was over. They told him he couldn’t do it. And Mike said to me, ‘I can’t do it. The lawyers told me you can’t do it. They can’t do it.’ The lawyers are wrong. Because right after the election, they all met, the RINOs and the Democrats, and they worked out a plan to make sure that future vice presidents don’t do what I said you could do.”

“That’s not what happened,” Collins pushed back. “You’re referring to the electoral account. I read, I read that there is no authority. Legal experts, including Republican legal experts, say that he does not have that authority, Mr. President.”

“But why did they change the law, and then, saying [sic] that you can’t do it?” Trump shot back.

“They didn’t change the law. They strengthened the law because they were worried about what you could do,” Collins replied.

It’s notable that after the town hall, seven members of an eight-person CNN focus group—all Trump voters or supporters—said they want the former president to move on from 2020.


4. Trump says he will pardon “many” of the J6 protesters who remain in jail

“I am inclined to pardon many of them,” he said. “I can’t say for every single one because a couple of them, probably, they got out of control. But, you know, when you look at Antifa, what they’ve done to them… then what they’ve done to these people, they persecuted these people. And yeah, my answer is, I am most likely, if I get in, I will most likely—I wouldn’t say it will be a large portion of them. You know, they did a very [applause] and it’d be very early on” in his term. (He didn’t explain why he didn’t pardon them before he left office.)

“And they’re living in hell right now,” Trump added. “So when it comes to living in hell, and they’re policemen and firemen and they’re soldiers, and they’re carpenters and electricians, and they’re great people. Many of them are just great people.”

5. Trump thinks the sexual assault accusations against him by E. Jean Carroll have to do with the 2024 election

“Because what’s happening is they’re doing this for election interference,” he said. Asked if he thinks the accusations will hurt him with female voters, Trump said, “No, I don’t think so because the whole thing — just so you understand. Ready? — I never met this woman. I never saw this woman.”


6. Trump defended banning bump stocks, but insisted he’s a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment

“As you know, the bump stocks are actually a very unimportant thing,” he said. “And the NRA, I went with them and they said it doesn’t mean anything. And we’re actually—all they do is teach you how to shoot very inaccurately. So we did that.”

But he insisted, “There’s been nobody that’s protected the Second Amendment, as you know, like I have. I protected it through thick and thin. Not easy to do. But we have a very big mental health problem in this country. And again, it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger. It’s the person that pulls the trigger. And we have to protect the 2nd Amendment.”

7. The former president defended the Supreme Court’s decision to send abortion back to the states—and took credit for it. 

“It was such a great victory, and people are starting to understand. And now, you know, that they wanted to bring it back to the states, but that was probably the least important part of that victory,” he said. “Getting rid of Roe v. Wade was an incredible thing for pro-life because it gave pro-life something to negotiate with… deals are being made. Deals are going to be made.”


“Look, everybody that was president wanted to get rid and tried to get rid of Roe v. Wade. Fifty years. Republicans for 50 years. This has been going on—actually, a couple of Democrats—but for 50 years, this has been going on. I was able to do it, and I was very honored to do it.”

He explained that he supports abortion in cases of rape, incest, or risk to the life of the mother. He added, “I think it’s very important to say this: I consider the other side to be radical because the other side under Roe v Wade and other things, the other side, they’re radical because they will — remember the debate with Hillary Clinton — they said ‘rip the baby out of the womb’ at the end of the ninth months. They will kill the baby in the ninth month.”

8. Trump warned that Thursday would be “a day of infamy” when Title 42 expires

“Tomorrow is going to be a day of infamy,” he said. “You’re gonna have tens of thousands of people pouring into our country… You’re going to have millions of people pouring into our country… at a level that nobody’s ever seen before. These people are sick — anybody that wants this to happen to our country — they’re destroying our country, and this should not be allowed to happen.”

Related: Here Come the Migrants

“If people are sick and have infectious diseases and lots of other problems, we don’t want them being in our country. We have enough problems right now. We have problems like we’ve never had in the history of our country,” Trump said.


9. Trump said he could end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours, while refusing to say whether he wants Ukraine to win

“If I’m president, I will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours,” he said. How? By meeting with Putin and Zelenskyy. “They both have weaknesses and they both have strengths. And within 24 hours, that will be settled. It’ll be over.”

Asked if he wants Ukraine to win, Trump said, “I don’t think in terms of winning and losing. I think in terms of getting it settled, so we stop killing all these people.”

Bonus Point: He couldn’t resist taking a jab at presumed primary competitor Ron DeSantis

“I’m leading DeSanctimonious by a lot, by 40 points or 45 points. I think he ought to just relax and take it easy and think about the future, because right now, his future is not looking so good.”

Related: CEO of Pro-DeSantis PAC Takes on Trump Ahead of His CNN Town Hall

My takeaways: 

  • The New Hampshire town hall was vintage Trump. He didn’t hold back in defending himself, called the moderator a “nasty person,” and enjoyed some cheers and chuckles from the audience.
  • I’m on the record saying that Trump is foolish to grace CNN and the New York Times with his presence every time he has something to say. It’s his Achille’s heel, but he can’t seem to resist running to the cameras every time a liberal media outlet calls. True to form, CNN spent the hours after the debate bashing Trump, with Anderson Cooper, Van Jones, and Jake Tapper all joining in.
  • I expect we’ll learn on Thursday that very few people watched the town hall and that CNN’s hopes for a ratings boom will not have come to fruition.
  • It’s too early in the election cycle to make any predictions. Polls are of little value at this point, and we’re not even sure who all is running. As in past elections, we’re going to have to wait and see how this drama unfolds.



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