Trump Puts Himself in Lincoln's Company in Speech to Republicans

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump extolled his own performance in a speech to Republican lawmakers on Thursday, celebrated the tax plan they together passed into law, mused about a sequel, and suggested he could have won office without the party’s leaders.

The speech, at the annual congressional Republican retreat, was trademark Trump: meandering and boastful.

Many of the Republican lawmakers gathered for annual retreat at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, face re-election this November amid anxiety their campaigns could be weighed down by the unpopularity of a party leader whose job approval is the lowest in history for this phase of a presidency. Trump showed no lack of confidence.

“We’ve fulfilled far more promises than we promised,” he said of his record in office. “I call it promises plus.”

And he invoked the longest-serving Republican senator to put himself among the figures on Mount Rushmore, recounting remarks he attributed to Orrin Hatch of Utah, who was in the audience.

“He actually once said I’m the greatest president in the history of our country,” Trump told the lawmakers. “I said, does that include Lincoln and Washington? He said yes.”

Matt Whitlock, a spokesman for Hatch, emailed a statement in response: “Senator Hatch has said that he would like to work with the President to make this the greatest presidency in history for the American people.”

After recognizing Republican congressional leaders, he riffed on his own election victory.

“Without them, I could have never won the presidency, I guess,” Trump said. “I don’t know. Could I have won the presidency without them?”

Trump offered a gleeful picture of the Republican tax cut legislation, predicting a flood of investment into the U.S. to create new jobs and even joking that the success demands a sequel.

“Maybe we’ll do a phase two, I don’t know, we’ll do a phase two,” Trump said “Are you ready for that?”

“I think you’re ready,” he added. “We’ll get them even lower.”

Trump urged Republican senators to follow him by passing immigration legislation he has proposed.

Democrats have criticized his demand for an immigration law that would roll back visa preferences for family members of U.S. citizens, what Trump calls “chain migration.” Democrats are pressing for action to restore protections against deportation for the dreamers that will lapse on March 5 after Trump ended President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Trump asked Republican lawmakers at the retreat to pass “an immigration reform package that includes a permanent solution on DACA, secures the border, ends chain migration, and cancels the visa lottery,” calling it “a plan that will finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.