President Donald Trump on Thursday called into his favorite TV program, “Fox & Friends,” and spoke for more than 30 minutes in what at times was an agitated, stream-of-consciousness rant. The president careened over a lot of ground in the rare interview.
Here’s a summary:
He said “nuclear war” with North Korea “would have happened if we had weak people.”
Trump dismissed criticism of his hyperbolic rhetoric on North Korea, which has included insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man,” and bragging about his nuclear “button.”
“Everybody said, ‘This guy’s going to get us into nuclear war.’ Let me tell you, the nuclear war would have happened if we had weak people,” Trump said.
He cited the Civil War to claim Republicans can gain more support from black voters, and praised rapper Kanye West for his supportive tweets.
Trump, asked about favorable tweets from Kanye West this week, attributed the rapper’s support to low black unemployment.
“He sees this stuff,” Trump said.
Trump falsely claimed he “got a lot of support” from black voters, even though he won 8 percent of the black vote in 2016.
“People don’t realize, you know, if you go back to the Civil War, it was the Republicans that really did the thing,” he said. “Lincoln was Republican. Somehow it changed over the years, and I will say, I really believe it’s changing back.”
He acknowledged that his personal attorney Michael Cohen represented him in “this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”
The president previously claimed he was unaware of Cohen’s hush-money payment to bury Trump’s reported affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. On “Fox & Friends,” Trump tried to distance himself from his longtime personal attorney, saying that Cohen does only a “tiny, tiny fraction” of his “overall legal work.”
But in the process, he admitted that “he represents me with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”
Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, appearing on MSNBC at the same time, called it “a hugely damaging admission” and “another gift from the heavens.”
When “Fox & Friends” pushed back by noting Trump’s longstanding ties to Cohen, the president responded that he has “many, many attorneys, so many you wouldn’t believe.”
Trump’s comments were quickly used against him: Hours later, federal prosecutors cited them in an ongoing legal case over a review of documents seized during FBI raids targeting Cohen.
He threatened political consequences for the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Minutes before Trump began his call to “Fox & Friends,” his nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, Ronny Jackson, withdrew his nomination after allegations of improper workplace conduct, including being drunk, wrecking a car, and overprescribing medications.
“These are all false accusations. They are trying to destroy a man,” Trump said. He fingered Tester, who released a report a day earlier detailing allegations against Jackson based on more than 20 people who have worked with him.
“I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana,” Trump said.
Trump bragged that in 2016, he won Montana by a wide margin.
He repeatedly bragged about his electoral victory nearly a year and a half ago.
He also dubiously claimed the Electoral College favors Democrats.
Reminder: It is April 2018. The election was in November 2016.
He claimed “nobody talks about” this week’s special election for Congress in Arizona.
That race, to fill the seat of former Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), was anticipated to be an easy GOP win. Instead, the Republican candidate, Debbie Lesko, won by only 5 points ― another warning sign for Republicans in this year’s midterms.
He repeated his claim that former FBI Director James Comey is “guilty of crimes.”
An agitated Trump attacked Comey as “a liar and a leaker,” and said he’s “guilty” for leaking classified information in memos he wrote after meetings with the president.
He acknowledged that he stayed overnight during the infamous 2013 Moscow trip.
“Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed,” he said.
The trip matches the unconfirmed “dossier” of salacious, unconfirmed allegations about Trump, including the claim he hired prostitutes and asked them to urinate on a hotel bed while in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Russians allegedly recorded the episode, now known as “the pee tape” and the “golden showers” incident, to use as blackmail.
Trump on Thursday went on to claim that Comey “lied” when the then-FBI director wrote in a memo that Trump told him that he didn’t stay on the trip overnight.
He resumed his attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice.
Trump sounded enraged, at times yelling, when talking about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia. He said he’s staying out of Mueller’s investigation, but might intervene “at some point.”
“I have decided that I won’t be involved. I may change my mind at some point, because what’s going on is a disgrace,” he said.
He also took swipes at his FBI and Justice Department. “You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it’s a disgrace,” he said. “And our Justice Department ― which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t ― our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me, and everyone knows it.”
You’ll never guess what grade he gives his presidency.
“I would give myself an A+,” Trump said, claiming that he has defied many obstacles, chiefly the “phony cloud” and “witch hunt” of Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.
This article has been updated to note that Trump’s interview became a factor in a court hearing involving Cohen later Thursday.