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Trump Jokes to Boy Scouts About 'Firing' HHS Head, Pushes for Obamacare Repeal


Boy Scouts sing and dance to music as they await the arrival of President Donald Trump at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017.

President Donald Trump used his speech Monday night to an enthusiastic crowd at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia to take swipes at "the fake news media" and joke about firing his director of health and human services if Republicans in Congress fail to advance health care legislation that Trump favors.

About 40,000 Boy Scouts, leaders and volunteers were on hand for the jamboree, an event held every four years.

Trump had initially said the speech would not be political -- "Who the hell wants to talk about politics to the Boy Scouts?" he asked -- but interspersed his remarks with a number of topical barbs.

WATCH: Trump speaks to thousands at Boy Scout Jamboree

'Better get votes'

The president joked that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price "better get" enough votes in the Senate to begin debate on the Republican health-care bill on Tuesday.

"Otherwise, I'll say, 'Tom, you're fired," he joked, adding, "You better get Senator Capito to vote for it."

He was referring to West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who has said she will not vote for the bill in its present form.

Former President Barack Obama never appeared at the jamboree in person during his two terms in the White House, but did send a video message in 2010, the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Trump took note of that.

"By the way, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?" he asked. "The answer is no. ... But we'll be back."

Remember 'that incredible night'?

Toward the end of his remarks, Trump reminisced with the Scouts about his election victory last November, mocking news media and pollsters who had predicted he would lose.

"You remember that incredible night with the maps," he said, referring to state-by-state maps denoting Democratic or Republican wins with blue or red coloring. "And that map was so red it was unbelievable, and they didn't know what to say."

He also delivered a long anecdote about the failed home builder William Levitt - known for his "Levittown" development on New York's Long Island, near where Trump grew up -- with what seemed to be a parable about the importance of persistence and not losing one's "momentum."

Eagle Scouts in Cabinet

For the trip to Glen Jean, site of a Boy Scouts "high adventure base" about 500 kilometers from Washington, Trump was joined by Price, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke -- all Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in scouting. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also an Eagle Scout and president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2010-2012, addressed the gathering on Friday.

Aboard Air Force One en route to West Virginia, Price said the administration is eager to begin debate in the Senate on the health care bill, and looks forward to the necessary vote to begin that:

"We look forward to a positive outcome tomorrow. We look forward to having at least 50 votes in the Senate tomorrow, and the vice president will be there tomorrow to break a tie if there is a tie."

McCain returns to Washington

Late Monday, however, Senator John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, tweeted that he would return to the Senate on Tuesday for the health care vote.

"Look forward to returning to Senate tomorrow to continue work on health care reform, defense bill & #RussiaSanctions," McCain tweeted.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also discussed a bill scheduled for a vote Tuesday in the House of Representatives. The legislation would place new sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election as well as for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014, and also authorize similar actions against Iran and North Korea.

One provision of the bill calls for the president to seek congressional approval before either lifting or reducing sanctions against Russia.

Russia investigation

Trump has been largely dismissive of numerous investigations underway in the U.S. about Russian meddling in the election aimed at helping him win.

Earlier Monday, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, answered questions in a closed-door meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators about Russia's interference in last November's U.S. vote.

"The president was very proud of Jared voluntarily going to the Hill (Congress) and being very transparent with every interaction that he's had," Sanders told reporters. "He thought Jared did a great job, and was very glad that he was able to go through that process and lay everything out and I think show the members of that committee as well as everybody else what a witch hunt and hoax this whole thing really is."