President Donald Trump bemoaned a decision not to investigate Hillary Clinton after the 2016 presidential election, decrying a “rigged system” that still doesn’t have the “right people” in place to fix it, during a freewheeling speech to Republican donors in Florida on Saturday.
In the closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump also praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn’t mind making such a maneuver himself.
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
The remarks, delivered inside the ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate during a lunch and fundraiser, were upbeat, lengthy, and peppered with jokes and laughter. But Trump’s words reflected his deeply felt resentment that his actions during the 2016 campaign remain under scrutiny while those of his former rival, Hillary Clinton, do not.
“I’m telling you, it’s a rigged system folks,” Trump said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a rigged system. And we don’t have the right people in there yet. We have a lot of great people, but certain things, we don’t have the right people.”
Trump has repeatedly said that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, should launch investigations into Clinton, and has continued to lambast Sessions on Twitter for not taking what he views as appropriate steps to probe Clinton’s actions involving her private email server.
The stewing anger with Sessions has soured Trump’s mood over the past week, including on Wednesday evening, when he fumed inside the White House over his attorney general’s decision to release a statement defending himself after Trump chastised his approach to an investigation into alleged surveillance abuses as “DISGRACEFUL” on Twitter.
The episode was just one irritant in a long series of upsetting moments for Trump this week. Morale at the White House has dropped to new lows, and Trump himself has seethed at the negative headlines.
On Saturday, among donors gathered in the grand ballroom named for himself at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pondered the happiness of his former rival, wondering aloud whether she was enjoying life after the campaign.
“Is Hillary a happy person? Do you think she’s happy?” he said. “When she goes home at night, does she say, ‘What a great life?’ I don’t think so. You never know. I hope she’s happy.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Trump went after former President George W. Bush for his decision to invade Iraq after faulty intelligence indicated the country had weapons of mass destruction.
“Here we are, like the dummies of the world, because we had bad politicians running our country for a long time,” he said.
Trump called the Iraq invasion “the single worst decision ever made” and said it amounted to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest.”
“That was Bush. Another real genius. That was Bush,” Trump said sarcastically. “That turned out to be wonderful intelligence. You know? Great intelligence agency there.”
Trump has previously cited the WMD failure to go after US intelligence agencies, bringing up the error as a reason to doubt the same agencies conclusions’ that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer