When Jason Miller was on my Sunday show, I asked the Trump senior adviser why his boss was trashing the likes of Bill Barr, John Kelly, John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. Why did he hire them in the first place?
‘Well, look, I think as President Trump learned with real estate, you learn something new in every single deal. Of course, there’ll be some people that don’t get invited back,’ he said.
In a combative and probing interview with Donald Trump on Monday, Fox’s Bret Baier asked a similar question, ticking off what the former president had said about these and other appointees (Barr a ‘gutless pig,’ Kelly born with ‘a very small brain’) – though in fairness they have been denouncing him as unfit for office.
‘Because I hired 10 to 1 that were fantastic,’ Trump said. ‘We had a great economy. We had phenomenal people in charge of the economy. We had phenomenal people in the military.’ Then he veered off into saying that he had defeated ISIS in four weeks (of course he had some help from our brave soldiers).
I’m not saying Trump didn’t bring in some talented people. But the folks he has been insulting in highly personal terms include his former secretary of State, secretary of Defense, attorney general and two chiefs of staff – the very top of the Cabinet and the White House.
I also found this telling, when Baier asked what he might do differently in a second term. ‘ I would like to be less combative,’ Trump said, ‘but I find the press is extremely dishonest and if not combative, I don’t get my word across.’
Of course, Trump repeatedly denounced the media as the ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘fake news,’ but it’s also hard to argue that most of the press corps isn’t viscerally against him.
When Baier pressed him about the classified documents indictment, Trump said he just needed more time to go through the boxes stored at Mar-a-Lago: ‘These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things, golf shirts, clothing, pants. Shoes.’ This will undoubtedly become known as the Golf Shirts Defense.
But Trump ignored or only partially complied with government subpoenas. In any event he said he’s not worried about the indictment because he had every right to take the classified material from the White House (which the government and most lawyers dispute) and that he will win the case.
There was also plenty of back and forth when Baier told him ‘you lost the 2020 election.’
Trump dug in, as always: ‘Bret, you take a look at all of the stuffed ballots, you take a look at all of the things, including things like the 51 intelligence agents.’
The Fox News anchor responded there were ‘recounts in all of the swing states there was not significant widespread fraud.’
Trump: ‘But we’re trying to get recounts, real recounts, not just numbers of votes cast.’
Baier: ‘There were investigations of widespread corruption. There was not a sense of that. There were lawsuits, more than 50 of them by your lawyers, some in front of judges, judges that you appointed.’
Many other outlets are replaying the interview and it was Trump’s first sitdown with a top anchor from Fox’s news division since he declared his candidacy. My colleague Bret did a tremendous job, a master class in interviewing a challenging subject.
In my Jason Miller interview, he talked about Trump’s media blitz being his political pushback against what he views as a weaponized Justice Department, then added this:
‘There should be equal time for Joe Biden as well. There should be a camera on Joe Biden 24-7. The American people deserve to know just how terribly he’s doing.’
Partisan shot aside, the Trump camp would love to see Biden get more air time on the theory that he’ll stumble and commit more gaffes. I think that’s baked into the cake at this point. A majority of Democrats don’t view the 80-year-old president as up for a second term.
Biden did a rally in Philadelphia and is ramping up his fundraising, but he’s still running a low-key campaign and giving the press little access. This is reminiscent of the 2020 campaign, when Biden basically campaigned from his basement during the pandemic. Right now, if you think about it, why would Biden want to make much news when Trump is being deluged by negative indictment coverage?
The Biden family is very much in the news, however, thanks to yesterday’s plea deal by Hunter Biden. The president’s son got off extremely easy. In exchange for pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to filing late taxes, he will get only probation – a stark contrast to the many years in prison that Trump will face if convicted.
In the agreement with the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware, a charge will also be filed on Hunter having lied on a government form to buy a gun by saying he has not used drugs, but not be prosecuted. His addiction problems are at the heart of his chaotic life, as he has acknowledged.
There’s no way this investigation would have taken five years if Hunter’s last name was Smith. At the same time, the average person probably would have gotten off with just misdemeanors.
But given that Trump already predicted that Hunter would be charged with something minor to make the ‘strike’ against him seem fair, this debate is just beginning. The U.S. attorney, David Weiss, had a very limited mandate. House Republicans are investigating whether Joe Biden, as vice president, helped his son get big-bucks contracts from such outfits as the Ukrainian gas giant Burisma. There is chatter about taped conversations with Joe and Hunter Biden and the two men supposedly splitting a $10-million bribe, but this has yet to surface, the sources are elusive and nothing has been proven yet.
One thing is certain: The president has often said his son has done nothing wrong. After the guilty plea, he can’t say that anymore.