Again and again on Wednesday — 11 times in total, before 1 p.m. — President Donald Trump deployed some form of his favorite dodge: “We’ll see.”
“We’ll see what happens. We’ll know in a very short period of time. But it looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good,” he said, when asked by reporters about Hurricane Irma at an Oval Office meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday morning.
“But our country has a lot of great assets and we have some liabilities that we have to work out, so we’ll see if we can do that,” Trump told the press of Congress’s return to business this week.
Before being ushered out, a reporter asked if Trump would support a three-month increase of the debt ceiling.
“We’ll see,” he responded. It later emerged that Trump broke with Republicans and sided with Democrats to support just that.
Whether he’s facing an uncomfortable question, trying to keep some mystery around his future plans, or simply filling up verbal space, Trump has frequently thrown out the phrase “we’ll see” when facing a barrage of questions from reporters.
He’s used the verbal tic on topics big and not-as-big – from whether the U.S. will go to war with a nuclear North Korea, to whether Steve Bannon would be ousted from the West Wing.
Wednesday was no different.
As Trump left the White House shortly before 12:30 p.m. to begin a trip to North Dakota, he stopped to discuss his phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the situation in North Korea.
“We had a very good phone call. It lasted for a long time. President Xi would like to do something. We’ll see whether or not he can do it,” Trump said.
A reporter asked if Trump was considering military action.
“We’re going to see what happens,” Trump responded. “We’ll see what happens. Certainly, that’s not our first choice, but we will see what happens.”
Trump boarded Marine One, flew to Joint Base Andews and, upon boarding Air Force One, gaggled with a group of reporters. The gaggle lasted three minutes, and Trump deployed his phrase another four times.
Chinese action to defuse the North Korea situation? “We’ll see how that works out.”
What he’ll do if Congress doesn’t take action on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program? “We’re going to see what we’re going to do.”
Pressed again on what it means to “revisit” the DACA issue, as he said he would in a Tuesday tweet? “Well, we’re going to see what happens. I want to see what happens in Congress.”
Below is a brief, and incomplete, history of Trump’s go-to non-answer: “We’ll see.”
North Korea, Sept. 3
On Sunday, as Trump left church, a reporter asked if the United States would be taking military action against North Korea.
“We’ll see,” Trump responded.
The border wall, August 28
Trump was asked at a press conference whether he would support a shutdown of the government to force Congress to provide funding for a wall along the southern border.
“I hope that’s not necessary. If it’s necessary, we’ll have to see. But I hope it’s not necessary,” Trump replied.
Steve Bannon, August 15
Trump was asked at a news conference about chief strategist Steve Bannon’s future in the White House.
“We’ll see,” Trump responded. Three days later, Bannon was ousted from the White House.
A lot of topics, July 25
In a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump talked health care (“We’ll see. … We’re going to see. … We’ll see what happens”), a visit from the Prime Minister of Lebanon (“We’ll see what that’s all about.”), whether he has any disappointments in his presidency so far (“I have to see where we are with this. Let’s see.”), the Democrats’ messaging strategy (“We’ll see what happens.”), tax reform (“We’re going to see, and we’ll see.”), Apple moving jobs to the U.S. (“We’ll have to see.”), the possibility of steel tariffs (“We’re going to see.”), NAFTA renegotiation (“So we’ll see.”), Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal (“And so we’ll see what happens.”), the status of Attorney General Jeff Sessions (“But we’ll see what happens. … I’ll just see.”), special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (“Well, we’re going to see. … No, we’re going to see. I mean, I have no comment yet, because it’s too early. But we’ll see. We’re going to see.”) and the possibility of staff changes at the White House (“I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see.”).
Afghanistan troop levels, July 20
For months, uncertainty swirled around whether Trump would boost American troop levels in Afghanistan.
“We’ll see,” Trump said when pressed on the topic in July. He announced in August his intention to increase U.S. military involvement in the country.
Obamacare repeal, July 19
In an interview with the New York Times, Trump discussed the uncertainty over Obamacare repeal: “I think we are going to see. … We’ll see. … So we’ll see what happens.”
Next steps on health care, July 18
After the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act went down in flames in the Senate, Trump expressed disappointment — and uncertainty about next steps.
“We’ll see what happens but I am disappointed because for so many years, I’ve been hearing repeal and replace,” Trump said.
Chinese leverage with North Korea, July 13
Pressed on whether American trade with China could be used as leverage in tightening Chinese restraints on North Korea, Trump responded: “Let’s see.”
News conference dodges, April 20
At a news conference, Trump discussed North Korea (“We’re going to see what happens. … So we’ll see what happens.”), Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal (“So we will see what happens.”) and health care (“We’ll see what happens.”).
Russia, April 12
At another news conference, Trump discussed the United States’ relationship with Russia: “We’ll see. We’ll see the end result, which will be in a long period of time, perhaps. … But we’re going to see what happens. … We’re going to see how that all works out.”
Susan Rice, April 5
In an interview with the New York Times, Trump discussed his allegation that former national security adviser Susan Rice tried to learn the identities of Trump allies swept up in surveillance: “We’ll see what happens. … I think you’re going to see a lot. I think you’ll see a lot.”
More on health care, April 2
In an interview with the Financial Times, Trump discussed House Republicans’ move to delay a vote on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“We will see what happens,” Trump said. “But one way or the other, I promised the people great healthcare. We are going to have great healthcare in this country.”
The bill eventually passed the House. It failed in the Senate, and has not been taken up again.