Trump’s interviews with friendly hosts like Laura Ingraham can go awry even when they throw him a lifeline

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Politics – washingtonpost

“People you’ve never heard of. People that are in the dark shadows,” Trump told her in an interview that aired Monday night.

Ingraham, appearing taken aback, asked for an elaboration. “That sounds like a conspiracy theory,” she said. “Dark shadow. What is that?”

“They’re people that are on the streets. They’re people that are controlling the streets,” Trump said. “We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that. They’re on a plane.”

A surprised Ingraham asked: Where was this?

“I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation right now, but they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention, and there were like seven people on the plane like this person, and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage,” Trump said.

The president never offered any evidence to back up his story — and none has materialized — while Ingraham soon moved the conversation along.

The exchange was the latest example of Trump making a controversial comment or unfounded assertion that kicks off a news cycle — an unhelpful one, in the eyes of many of his advisers — during an interview with a sympathetic host who tries unsuccessfully to keep him on message.

At times, the interviewers are surprised by the answers and try to throw the president a lifeline.

In a recent interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, Trump stunned some aides with an unprompted assertion that he opposed an economic stimulus bill because it contained funding to help the Postal Service with mail-in ballots during the pandemic, which he opposes.

“Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” he said. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it. So, you know, sort of a crazy thing. Very interesting.”

“I see,” Bartiromo said, as she steered the conversation toward voter fraud and away from whether Trump was willing to block aid for the unemployed so the Postal Service wouldn’t get resources to help process ballots delivered by mail.

Often the questions in these interviews are meant to set the president up to deliver the attacks and talking points he reiterates daily on Twitter or during interactions with the press.

Trump can still go off script or ignore an interviewer’s cues.

During a July 9 interview, Fox News host Sean Hannity noted that Trump had recently been criticized for not having a detailed response to a question about his second-term agenda. So, he asked the president again to lay out that agenda, a standard question for a presidential candidate.

“Well, first of all, I didn’t know I was criticized for that answer, because it’s a simple question,” he said.

Trump then went to essentially say he would keep doing what he’s been doing rather than ending the criticism that he doesn’t have a defined second-term agenda.

In another recent interview, Hugh Hewitt — who has served as a validator for Trump with traditional conservatives — repeatedly tried to get the president to say he believes in the power of individual states, or federalism.

“You respect the governor’s power,” Hewitt said, referring to Washington state, in an attempted explanation of why the president did not send in the military into the state due to protests in which there was some violence.

“The only reason Seattle was settled is they knew I was going in the next day,” Trump said.

Hewitt tried again. “You’re a federalist,” he said.

“And my guys were going in the next day. That’s the only reason that happened,” Trump replied.

“You believe in federalism,” Hewitt said again.

“So a lot of positive things are happening, and you’re a great guy. And a lot of fun, and we’ll do it again,” Trump replied.

With that, the interview ended.

Trump has also sat down for adversarial interviews, including with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, and his aides note that he answers far more questions from the press than Biden, who rarely speaks to reporters.

Monday night’s interview was filmed at the White House earlier in the day, and a second segment is expected to air on Fox News Tuesday night. Ingraham is a somewhat regular visitor to the Oval Office, aides said, and has pushed the president to support the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 and has repeatedly argued against lockdowns to mitigate the pandemic.

Asked about misconduct from police officers, Trump said that most were well behaved but likened some who “choke” when having to make split-second life or death decisions.

“Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a three foot putt,” Trump said.

Ingraham, again, quickly cut in. “You’re not comparing to golf because, of course, that’s what the media would say,” she said. Trump responded: “I’m saying people choke.”

Later, Ingraham again cut into an answer that was veering into a problematic direction for the president with regard to suburban communities. “They want low-income housing, and with that comes a lot of other problems, including crime. May not be nice to say, but . . .” he said, referring to Democrats. Aides have sought to bring more black voters into Trump’s column and his comments about the suburbs have been criticized as racist.

“You’re not saying all poor people are criminals, though,” she said.

“No, I’m not saying that at all, but it does, there is a level of violence that you don’t see,” Trump said. He then added, without explanation, that Cory Booker, a Black senator from New Jersey, would run affordable housing in a Biden administration. Booker has not expressed interest in such a job, and Biden has not offered it to him.

Trump also — as he does fairly frequently — seemed to undercut what his aides have argued.

The president’s aides contended for many days that he did not believe in pushing for “herd immunity” when it comes to the novel coronavirus and had not discussed the strategy with advisers, including adviser Scott Atlas.

Trump brought it up unprompted on Monday night.

“Once you get to a certain number — we use the word herd — once you get to a certain number it’s going to go away, so it doesn’t have to be, but yeah, I mean a lot of people are not going to want to do it,” Trump said of a vaccine that his administration is trying to develop for the coronavirus.

At a different time, Ingraham was seemingly encouraging the president to take a different tone to win suburban voters.

“Let’s say for the sake of argument you have a deficit among female voters who may be in some cases, you’re too aggressive, your tone or your tweets,” she said. “What do you say to them directly about what you’ll do in a second term?”

Trump did not give the response that she seemingly wanted. “Okay. I have to be aggressive, because I’m like standing here in a sea of incompetent people, stupid people, and violent people — very violent people,” he said.

“But that’s the kind of language, stupid people, a lot of women don’t like that,” she said.

“Well, where are we? We’re in the White House I see,” he said. “See? Okay.”

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