Donald Trump listens as Hillary Clinton answers a question during their town hall debate on Sunday at Washington University in St. Louis. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

It has come down to this: The republic hinges on Bill O’Reilly. As fate would have it, citizens of the United States need this man to extract meaningful information from Donald Trump.

Here’s why: The GOP presidential nominee has receded from his media ubiquity of several months ago. He doesn’t do interviews on most mainstream media outlets. Press conferences, too, have come to a halt. It’s mainly Fox News at this point. That is a troublesome situation, considering that two of the Fox News shows to which Trump retreats — “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity” — are unfiltered propaganda organs for him.

There’s no such corruption on “The O’Reilly Factor,” according to its host. After all, when O’Reilly teased his interview with Trump last night, he said that there was a “no-spin event ahead.” Such language would indicate that O’Reilly would be setting aside his multi-decade friendship with Trump and posing only the most challenging questions to him. The “no spin” architecture overlays all of O’Reilly’s broadcasts, of course, including one last month in which the host pressed Trump on his racist promotion of the birther conspiracy regarding President Obama: “Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?”

Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly had an awkward exchange after the GOP debate March 3. It's not the first time the two have clashed, but they also seem pretty friendly at times too. (The Washington Post)

Last night, O’Reilly appeared to recognize the civic responsibility weighing upon him. “I’m asking you the hardest questions I can ask you,” O’Reilly told Trump at one point. He’d better be! As O’Reilly himself pointed out before the interview, this was the first national interview with Trump since the debate and revelations that he’d engaged in lewd and misogynistic chatter with then-“Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush back in 2005. Meaning, there’s lots of stuff to ask about.

We know that O’Reilly knows from hard questions, too. Look at the way he treated an atheist leader around Christmastime in 2012, when he called him and his ilk a “merry band of fascists; look at the way he once told an African American studies professor that he looked like a “cocaine dealer”; look at the way he ripped George Will over a disagreement on Ronald Reagan — “You are a hack“; and look at how he cut off the microphone of a guest who was defending the Black Lives Matter movement.

So this guy can get tough when he wants to.

Now let’s have a look at those “hardest questions I can ask you.” Via Nexis, here they are:

• First of all, you tweeted today, it is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me. And I can now fight for America the way I want to. What exactly does that mean?

• What shackles did you have on?

• They were holding you back? They were holding you back?

• You say, you say, okay, the shackles are off and now I can really do what I want. I mean, what are you going to do that you haven’t done? I mean, are you going to be more outspoken?

• Four weeks from today, we’ll all be voting. You’re about six or seven percent down in the polling now, that’s what’s trickling out. Certainly, you could win. I think everybody, it was fair, you could win. But you’re behind. So, let’s start with risk assessment. Have you assessed how you’re going to win back women who were offended by the recent exposition from “Access Hollywood”? Do you have a plan to get those women back?

• You’re going the course of what you’ve been doing. You’re not going to add anything new, any targeting commercials?

• Women are the key with this. You’re winning with men. All right? And I think you will continue to win with men. But women you’re behind. But you’re behind with women. Are you going to target?

• Do you have any plan to speak to women directly or target them with ads or anything like that?

• Can I ask a question, please?

• If you’re elected president, you’re going to need [Sen. John] McCain and you’re going to need [House Speaker Paul] Ryan. You’re going to need these guys. … And you think they’ll going to all cooperate with you after you’re trashing them?

• On the debate, think back, what’s the most important thing you said in that debate?

• Now, Hillary Clinton just putting aside the compliments that she gave your children and by extension you. Did she say anything in that debate, and you know, try to be fair here, that impressed you, anything that she have any point of view that was worthy?

• When you see how you’re being treated, not only by the national press, but say “Saturday Night Live.” You’ve got Alec Baldwin now doing you, Kate McKinnon doing Mrs. Clinton. Do you feel that it’s coordinated?

• [CNN is] doing better. Because they’re on Hillary’s side and all that. But you’re right. I am not going to dispute the fact that … 80 percent of the press doesn’t want you to win. That’s a lot. Eighty percent. But, you always have a forum here. And I think Fox News has given you a fair shake. Would you say that’s accurate?

On that last one, Trump agreed.

Everyone in the United States these days has an opinion on the toughness of TV journalists. Matt Lauer, screamed a goodly portion of the country, failed to properly vet Trump in a recent town hall hosted by NBC News. Lester Holt, it was said, didn’t intervene sufficiently in the first presidential debate. And on and on.

So whether or not you feel that O’Reilly’s questions to Trump last night were sufficiently skeptical, we know for a fact that they were the toughest questions that O’Reilly could fashion. Because he said so. Given the centrality of Bill O’Reilly to the future of this country, it’s our collective duty to assist him in continuing to pose these very difficult questions to Trump — since he’s our only hope at this point, and he’s doing his very best. Please do your part by tweeting questions to @oreillyfactor or to @erikwemple, or email them to me at erik.wemple@washpost.com. I will pass them along to O’Reilly, in the best interests of our country.