Trump on the killing of Ahmaud Arbery: "There could be something we didn't see on that tape"
The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily robbed President Trump of his favorite outlet — campaign rallies — and thanks to his disastrous performances during the White House's erstwhile nightly briefings, those are apparently off the table for the time being as well. But lest he deprive the American public of the opportunity to hear his unvarnished and uninterrupted thoughts, the president returned Friday to his longtime safe space for soliloquies: Fox News's morning show, Fox & Friends.
During a lengthy phone interview Friday morning, Trump hit all the news of the day, spinning lies, exaggerations, self-congratulations, and his characteristic bombast into a doozy of a peek into the inner-workings of his brain.
First up: the transparently political decision by the Department of Justice to drop its case against admitted felon Michael Flynn, the retired Army general who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser before resigning after it was revealed he'd lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with a Russian ambassador. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with the ambassador.
Trump heralded Flynn's newly awarded freedom as a "BIG day for justice" in a tweet sent shortly before his Fox & Friends interview began.
During his call with the Fox & Friends hosts, Trump used the Flynn case as a springboard to beat an extremely dead horse, calling former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election a "hoax" and vowing to take revenge on the "dirty politicians and dirty cops and some horrible people" whom he claimed "made it impossible to deal with other countries, including Russia, because of what they were doing."
Trump also took shots at Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, whom he deemed "a crooked politician, crooked as can be, one of the worst I've ever seen." At one point, without offering any evidence or further details, Trump insisted that "Sleepy Joe [Biden] was involved in this also, very much."
Incredibly, Trump then chose to brag about his emulation of disgraced former President Richard Nixon. "I learned a lot by watching Richard Nixon," Trump exclaimed: "Don't fire people." Trump launched into an extended rant about former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, indicating that he felt some similarity between his situation with Sessions' recusal from the Mueller investigation and Nixon's infamous Saturday Night Massacre.
"Of course there was one difference, one big difference," Trump said. "Number one, [Nixon] may have been guilty, and number two, he had tapes all over the place. I wasn’t guilty, I did nothing wrong, and there were no tapes."
After 20 minutes of recycling the same victimhood rants he's perfected over the past three years, Trump finally shifted gears to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which he described as "a much smarter enemy than the enemy [political opponents] we just talked about — much smarter, those folks, they are not in the same league."
He then bragged about America's (wholly anemic) response to the pandemic, claiming, "We are doing really, really well." At one point, while discussing the virus's global spread through more than 180 countries, the president mused that "most people didn’t even know there are that many countries." He also once again revised his projection of the disease's death toll in America, to as many as 110,000, up from 60,000 on April 20.
Then, reacting to the morning's news that U.S. unemployment rates had made a record-breaking leap from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April, Trump downplayed the worst jobs numbers since the Great Depression, calling them "fully expected. There is no surprise," he said, which may be true — economists were certainly predicting the unemployment report to be catastrophic — but is little comfort for the approximately 20 million people who lost their jobs in the past month alone.
As far as his plan of action, the president promised that "those jobs will all be back and be back very soon." (Economists believe less than half the jobs lost during the pandemic will return.)
Trump also weighed in on the taped killing of Ahmaud Arbery, whose shooting death in February has set off a firestorm of controversy. Two men were arrested for Arbery's death Thursday evening after cellphone video of their confrontation with Arbery drew national attention this week; investigators, however, had had access to the clip since February.
Calling the footage "disturbing" and saying that his "heart goes out to the parents and the family and the friends," Trump nevertheless gave the accused murderers some wiggle room, claiming "there could be something that we didn’t see on tape. If you saw things went off tape and then back on tape."
You can watch the full interview here.