President Trump walked out of a White House executive-order signing ceremony on March 31 without actually signing the orders in question.
The ceremony started out as a standard White House photo op. First, Vice-President Mike Pence spoke highly of both Trump and the executive orders he was there to sign: “This is a great day for the American worker and a great day for the American economy. Once again, President Trump is keeping his word as we look for ways to expand exports from this country, imports to this country, this president is determined that we’re going to have free trade, but it’s going to be fair trade … holding [other nations] accountable to the promises that they make.” Pence went on to say that the orders would “ensure that we put America first, when it comes to trade. We put American jobs and American workers first.”
Then Trump took the podium and said “Thank you, everybody. You’re going to see some very, very strong results, very, very quickly. Thank you very much.”
After this very, very brief speech, Trump left the podium. An unseen man in the press pool (whom Bloomberg correspondent Justin Sink identified on Twitter as CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett) then spoke up and asked Trump if he was trying to tell the Department of Justice to grant immunity to his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. “Were you trying to do that, Mr. President? Was that your intention, Mr. President, sir?” Trump ignored the question, said nothing and started walking out of the room. Pence tried to stop him, but Trump motioned toward the off-screen desk holding the still-unsigned executive orders.
Trump signed the two orders later, off-camera. The White House claims both orders are directed at targeting foreign trade abuses: one demanding a 90-day study of U.S. trade deficits with various trading partners, and another demanding stricter enforcement of “anti-dumping” rules. (The World Trade Organization defines “dumping” as when “a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market.”)
When discussing the incident on Twitter later, the president made no mention of his early exit from the ceremony, saying only that “We are going to defend our industry & create a level playing field for the American worker. It is time to put #AmericaFirst & #MAGA!”
Michael Flynn told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that an immunity grant is an indication that a crime was “probably committed.” Watch the Mike Flynn video.