Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday took part in a town hall-style event in New Hampshire moderated by CNN host Kaitlan Collins, and he made a number of shocking and surprising statements during the more than an hour-long discussion.
One of the things said by Trump that caused the most uproar was his continued and repeated claim that the 2020 election was "rigged," even as Collins routinely interjected to insist that the election had been fair and there was "no evidence" of any fraud to support his assertions, The Hill reported.
The former president also implied that the 2024 election could similarly be "rigged" against him and Republicans, and made major statements on issues like abortion, the debt limit, illegal immigration, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, among other things.
On the topic of abortion, former President Trump said the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a "great victory" for the nation and Republican-led states and especially those with pro-life views.
When pressed several times by Collins about whether he'd sign a bill imposing a nationwide federal ban on abortion, he repeatedly dodged the question and declined to give a definitive answer, indicating instead that he'd have to see the specifics first while also expressing his support for the typical exceptions to any sort of restrictions on the procedures.
With respect to illegal immigration, Trump said that the lifting on Thursday of the Title 42 public health order that he imposed in March 2020, which allowed for the immediate expulsion of migrants at the border, would be a "day of infamy" and would substantially worsen the already historic crisis at the southern border.
He also got into a back-and-forth with Collins over the specifics of his efforts to build a better border wall system and indicated that he would reimpose some of the tough restrictions on newly arrived migrants that had been in place during his administration, such as temporarily separating children from their parents during processing.
As for the current conflict in Ukraine, The Hill reported that Trump refused to commit to continuing to provide Ukraine with money and weapons and declined to pick a side in that war, and said instead, "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," and added, "I want everyone to stop dying. They're dying, Russians and Ukrainians."
He also declined to label Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "war criminal," and suggested such accusations would be better addressed after the fighting had ended as pressing the matter now would only embolden Russia to fight even harder and make a peace settlement that much more difficult to achieve.
CNN reported that Trump also seemed to suggest that, in terms of raising the nation's debt limit to avoid default, congressional Republicans should risk a potential default by calling Democrats' bluff and forcing them to accept "massive cuts" to federal spending in exchange for lifting the debt limit.
The Associated Press reported that CNN has faced significant backlash over the "chaotic" Trump town hall event, largely from Democrats who were incensed that the network had provided their arch-nemesis with a national platform from which to spew "lies" and assertions that they don't like or agree with.
Yet, CNN CEO Chris Licht has defended the decision to host the event with Trump and praised Collins for her "masterful performance" and how she handled herself in sparring with the former president and attempting to fact-check him in real-time amid an audience that was clearly more favorable to Trump than her or the network.
The criticism from Democrats and many in the media has been stark, though, including from inside CNN itself, according to Politico, where both on-air hosts and analysts, as well as staffers behind the scenes, have registered their disapproval of what happened.
Some called it a "complete disaster," a "strategic error," and "incredibly disappointing," as well as that it appeared that they were "endorsing" Trump's behavior, but, again, Licht stood firm in asserting that despite how "messy and tricky" it can be to cover Trump, it was nonetheless the right thing to do.