President Donald Trump said late Saturday that “we will be meeting” with North Korea during a speech at the annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, indicating that negotiations about a potential dialogue between the two countries continue to advance.
"I won't rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un, I just won't. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem not mine," Trump told the more than 600 attendees during his 35-minute address at the Renaissance Washington Hotel on Saturday. "By the way a couple days ago they said we would like to talk, and I said, so would we, but you have to de-nuke, you have to de-nuke. So let’s see what happens. Maybe positive things are happening, I hope that’s true … We will be meeting and we’ll see what happens."
The White House did not immediately respond to a query as to whether the president was joking or not. The president has repeatedly indicated he’s willing to negotiate with North Korea, though Vice President Mike Pence pulled out of a secret meeting with representatives of the regime at last month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
But for the rest of the speech, the president dove into his first appearance at a formal, insidery Washington event since his inauguration with gusto, making fun of himself – “I told them not to worry, nobody does self-deprecating better than I do” – and a long list of others, including his wife Melania, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his former top adviser Steve Bannon, senior Democrats and even Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
On chaos in the White House, the president said: “So many people have been leaving the White House it’s been exciting and invigorating … I like chaos.
“So, who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller, or Melania? That’s terrible. But you love me right, honey? She said, behave! By the way she has been an incredible first lady."
He continued: "I want to apologize for running a little late, as Jared could not get through security."
Trump said he calls Pence "the apprentice," joking that the vice president “wakes up every morning and asks, has he been impeached yet."
Of his time as host of NBC's "The Apprentice" versus the White House, he said: "In one job I had to manage a cutthroat cast of characters, desperate for TV time, totally unprepared for their roles and their jobs and each week afraid of having their asses fired, and the other job I was the host of a smash television hit."
On rumors Oprah Winfrey might be weighing a run in 2020, he said Oprah "says she’ll run only if she gets the go ahead from the almighty – alright, Oprah go ahead and run."
Addressing his ongoing feud with California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff: "Leakin’ Adam, that guy leaks more than anyone. He’s on the phone so much he doesn’t have any time. He’s, hey, let’s call these guys at Jeff Zucker’s network."
On how to reduce global warming: "We’re going to reduce the carbon footprint when we travel by shrinking the press pool so we only have room for Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Judge Jeanine."
Before Trump spoke, journalists and club members crooned out satirized show tunes that lampooned the White House and the past year in politics, including a number on Michael Wolff’s bestselling tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which depicted a White House in chaos.
Fox News host Bret Baier sang about special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia probe in "You Can't Hurry Bob" to the tune of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
The president and first lady were flanked at the top table by Gridiron Club and Foundation President David Lightman and Kevin McClatchy, chairman of the McClatchy company.
Joining the first couple were top officials in America’s armed forces, a bevy of cabinet secretaries including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin, White House advisers Kushner and Ivanka Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the evening’s other featured speakers, were also at the head table along with their wives.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was publicly criticized by the president this past week, was seated at the head table near Trump.
Trump said he offered Sessions a ride to the confab, but "he recused himself."
Except Grover Cleveland all presidents since 1885 have accepted the club's invitation to attend at least one of the annual dinners. Former President Barack Obama attended the Gridiron Iron Club dinner in 2011, 2013 and 2015. President George W. Bush attended six of the eight dinners during his two terms.
Trump skipped both the Gridiron Club and the White House Correspondents Association annual gatherings last year.
Earlier Saturday, the president had tweeted: "Mainstream Media in U.S. is being mocked all over the world. They’ve gone CRAZY!"
He later jabbed at the media once more in his address before making his exit, to return to the White House. "This might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night."