President Donald Trump, amid the worst week of his presidency, sat down for a friendly interview with “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt to make his case. As so often happens when Trump is backed into a corner, he lashed out at, well, everyone.
I went through the transcript of the interview Fox released this morning. Trump’s quotes – and my thoughts on them – are below.
1. “And I guess you could say that our numbers in winning whether it’s for the Senate, or for Congress, or for governor has been very good.”
And away we go! To be clear: Every traditional predictor of election outcomes suggest Republicans will take a battering in the House and at the governors level. The Senate, because the playing field is heavily tilted toward Republicans, could be more favorable to Trump’s side.
2. “I’ve always had controversy in my life and I’ve always succeeded. I’ve always won. I’ve always won.”
Two notes here: a) he’s right – his entire life has been controversial and b) he only sees things through the lens of winning or losing. There is no other measure of success or failure. If you win, you were right.
3. “They like to cover nonsense.”
Trump is talking about the media here, insisting the press doesn’t cover the good economic news of his administration. (Not true!) Earhardt’s response to that attack on the media – of which she is, theoretically, a part? “Right.” Good times.
4. “Well I don’t know if he was a fixer. I don’t know where that term came from.”
Well, Michael Cohen, at the direction of Trump, set up a shell company and negotiated payoffs to two women – Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal – who alleged they had affairs with Trump. And remember that the way Cohen and Trump met was Cohen took Trump’s side in a dispute with tenants in one of his buildings. You could say Cohen has “fixed” more than one problem for Trump.
5. “But he was somebody that was probably with me for about 10 years and I would see him sometimes.”
This is a dramatic underplaying of Cohen’s closeness to Trump over that decade, according to what we know about the two men’s relationship. Anytime Trump had a problem that needed fixing – and that happened fairly frequently – he turned to Cohen to fix it. Cohen was involved therefore in some of the most delicate situations in Trump’s world – including paying hush money to women making allegations about affairs.
6. “He made the deal. He made the deals.”
This is Trump’s response to Earhardt asking him whether he directed Cohen to make the payments to Daniels and McDougal. Which, of course, isn’t a denial at all. The issue is not who “made the deals,” but who directed the deals to be made.
7. “Those two counts aren’t even a crime. They weren’t campaign finance.”
What Trump doesn’t know about campaign finance law is, um, a whole lot. He seems to believe that because he didn’t give money to Cohen from the 2016 campaign account that it was totally fine to dole out tens of thousands of dollars to silence women making allegations about a candidate for president. Which it isn’t. What Trump did is effectively make a campaign loan to Cohen to handle a problem for him. He never disclosed that loan. And we know for a fact that Cohen has testified that Trump “directed” and “coordinated” him to make the payments for the express purpose of influencing the election.
8. “Later on I knew. Later on.”
Trump’s “later on” response about when he found out about the payments that Cohen made to Daniels and McDougal simply doesn’t jibe with what he has said in the past. In April, on Air Force One, Trump had this exchange with a reporter:
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Reporter: “Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”
Reporter: “Then why did Michael Cohen make [the payment], if there was no truth to her allegations?”
Trump: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael.”
Reporter: “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”
Trump: “No I don’t know.
What’s remarkable is Earhardt’s follow-up to this clear lie by the President of the United States is “Why is Cohen doing this?” Really knocking it out of the park.
9. “If you look at President Obama, he had a massive campaign violation but he had a different attorney general and they viewed it a lot differently.”
Apples and oranges. Or, more accurately, apples and kumquats. Like, not even in the same universe.
It is true that Obama’s campaign was fined a hefty $375,000 by the FEC in 2013 for failure to file 48-hour contribution reports – donations made within the final weeks of a campaign – that totaled $1.3 million. The oversight was discovered in an audit of the Obama campaign.
Compare that fine to what is alleged here: A candidate for president directed the end-run of campaign finance laws in hopes of suppressing allegations made by women about romantic dalliances. He did so, according to Cohen, with the express purpose of influencing the election.
Yes, so, no.
10. “But what Michael Cohen pled to weren’t even campaign related. They weren’t crimes.”
Again, Trump simply doesn’t understand – or is choosing not to understand – campaign finance laws. Simply because the money he paid to Cohen wasn’t from the campaign’s coffers doesn’t mean it wasn’t a crime. Cohen literally pleaded guilty to two campaign finance crimes on Tuesday. Like, does Trump not think the Southern District of New York is aware of what the laws surrounding campaign finance are? [Narrator voice: They are.]
11. “And they put the two counts of campaign violations in there but a lot of lawyers on television and also lawyers that I have say, they’re – they’re not even crimes.”
Name one. Seriously.
12. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they – they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”
“According to a 1981 FBI memo, Trump offered to ‘fully cooperate’ with the bureau, proposing that FBI agents work undercover in a casino he was considering opening in Atlantic City. FBI agents even prepared an ‘undercover proposal concerning the TRUMP casino’ that senior agents and Trump planned to discuss, according to the document.”
13. “It – it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.”
14. “You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly.”
Let me say again: Donald Trump is not terribly well-versed in campaign finance laws.
15. “But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”
There’s a big difference between Cohen (or anyone) getting a reduced sentence because they are willing to “say something bad about Donald Trump” and what Cohen did: Agreed to plead guilty to eight felony counts and testify – under oath – that Trump directed and coordinated an end-run of campaign finance laws. This is not Michael Cohen calling Donald Trump names and getting time cut off his prison sentence. This is Michael Cohen saying the President of the United States was complicit in a crime.
16. “I’ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”
17. “I’ll tell you than somebody made a better deal. Awan, the IT guy for Shultz. Congresswoman Shultz. He had all the information on Democrats. He had all the information on everybody. He went to jail holding the hands of the Justice Department and the FBI.”
Trump is referring here to Imran Awan, a former staffer for Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee. He pleaded guilty last month to filing a false statement on a bank loan application. Trump – and other conspiracy-minded folks on the right – have seized on the fact that Awan worked with Wasserman Schultz as evidence he was involved in the hack of DNC emails during the 2016 campaign. You know, the one the intelligence community has concluded was Russia’s doing.
In the plea deal with Awan, the government said that there was zero evidence that Awan stole information from DNC servers or tried to abscond with the servers themselves.
18. “I mean, he was worse than anybody in my opinion. He got nothing. He’s a Democrat. He got nothing.”
Awan was sentenced to time served earlier this week. That amounted to one day in jail and 11 months of monitoring with an ankle bracelet. At Awan’s sentencing hearing, the district judge said this – clearly referencing Trump: “There have been numerous allegations, … accusations lobbed at him from the highest branches of the government, all of which have been proved to be without foundation by the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
19. “I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.”
Trump belittles his hand-picked attorney general, chapter 5,291.
20. “Comey’s his best friend.”
This has become one of Trump’s favorite talking points when trying to discredit the special counsel probe being run by former FBI director Robert Mueller. It’s not at all clear it’s true. There’s no question Mueller and Comey know one another through work. There’s a lot of questions about the actual closeness of their relationship.
21. “He had a really nasty business transaction with me, which he never reported. I’ve been talking about it, he never reports it.”
The “really nasty business transaction” Trump refers to here is what The New York Times reported that Trump has claimed was a dispute over fees at one of his golf clubs when the former FBI director resigned his membership in 2011. According to The Washington Post, “a spokesman for Mueller said there was no dispute when Mueller, who was FBI director at the time, left the club.”
22. “I have great respect for what he’s done in terms of what he’s going through.”
This is Trump’s response to an Earhardt question on whether he is considering pardoning former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Trump’s response is a little bit different – OK, a LOT bit different – from how White House Secretary Sarah Sanders answered the Manafort pardon question on Wednesday afternoon. “Once again, that is not something that has been up for discussion,” Sanders said. Um, what?
23. “He wasn’t with the campaign long.”
Manafort was Trump’s de facto campaign manager from April 2016 until August 2016. That period was of critical import to Trump as he went from the frontrunner for the nomination to securing it. It was also the period of time – June 2016 to be exact – that we know Manafort as well as Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner met with Russians to talk about the alleged dirt they claimed to have on Hillary Clinton.
24. “They surveilled my campaign, it’s very simple.”
The FBI surveilled Carter Page, a foreign policy aide to Trump, because they believed him to be possibility under the influence of the Russians. The surveillance warrant was approved by the FISA court and re-approved three times. This wasn’t some rogue operation conducted by the so-called “deep state” within the FBI.
25. “When everybody see’s what going on in the Justice Department I always put justice now with quotes. It’s a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done. Or he should have told me.”
This is Trump’s response to Earhardt asking whether he was going to fire Sessions. It doesn’t exactly read like a vote of confidence.
26. “Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in.”
[Narrator voice: They don’t.]
27. “You know the only reason I gave him the job. Because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter. He was on the campaign.”
A remarkable admission here from Trump – albeit unintentional. The “only reason” he appointed Jeff Sessions to be the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement official was because Sessions was loyal to him on the campaign. Only the best people!
28. “The immigration laws are horrible. We’re doing an incredible job.”
Back to back sentences. Unedited. No rhyme, reason or connection I can decipher.
29. “You know when you have bad laws you can do good. But you can do a lot better if you had good laws.”
[scratches out a series of complex math equations on a yellow-lined notebook] Yeah, this checks out.
30. “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
This is the most astounding quote in the entire Trump interview. If you are doing a self-assessed “great job” then it is impossible for you to have broken any laws? That’s literally what Trump is saying here.
31. “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
Remarkable. The self-regard on display here is truly staggering. The only thing that has made the economy strengthen is Trump, according to Trump. Without him? Good luck, America.
32. “The New York Times cannot write a good story about me. They’re crazed. They’re like lunatics.”
Let’s be clear here. Trump views “true” news as news that is good for him. “Fake news” is then news that is bad for him. For all of his talk about “fake news” he is totally uninterested in the accuracy of reporting. He is entirely fixated on whether a story reads positively or negatively for him.
33. “And I’ll never forget, you talk about the fake news, they said Donald Trump met [Kim Jong Un] the first day it was incredible, nobody could believe I was able to do it.”
So, wait. The news is fake. But Trump cites favorably in this section the fact that the news reported on the historic summit he engineered with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. But if the news is fake, then how… [head explodes]
34. “So I give myself an A-plus.”
Earhardt asked Trump what grade he would give himself. That Trump went with the highest possible grade really tells you everything you need to know about him. Seriously.
35. “The only thing … I’m doing badly on is the press doesn’t cover me fairly.”
If I had to name my greatest weakness, I think I would probably say it’s that I care too much about people. Or maybe that I am so smart it makes it hard to interact with people not as smart as me. Either one would work.
36. “I would say I would honestly give myself an A-plus and so would many other people.”
So many other people. A+s all around!
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Imran Awan’s employer.