And this: “I hope it’s not true. But it looks like it is,” he said to reporters on Wednesday.
The highly uninformed speculation from the president prompted a tweeted backlash from the man he fired, former FBI director James B. Comey:
For a journalist who has secured an exclusive interview with the president, the upshot of all this points in one direction: Press the president on how he substantiates all his caveated claims about the “spy.” Has someone in the Justice Department confirmed his hunch? Upon whom is he relying for information? What the heck?
For his interview with Trump on Wednesday, after the president participated in a roundtable regarding immigration issues in Bethpage, N.Y., “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade chose a different route:
KILMEADE: As you know this morning, we read some of your tweets even on air. James Comey has responded. He said about a spy being in your campaign, he says this, “Facts matter. The FBI’s use of Confidential Human Sources that maybe you referred to as possible spies, that’s the actual term, is highly regulated and essential to protecting the country. Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country. How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?” What is your reaction to James Comey?TRUMP: Well I’d actually say – how is he going to explain to his grandchildren all of the lies, the deceit, all of the problems he has caused for this country. I think a thing that I’ve done for the country, the firing of James Comey is going to go down as a very good thing. The FBI is great. I know so many people in the FBI. The FBI is a fantastic institution, but some of the people at the top were rotten apples. James Comey was one of them. I’ve done a great service for this country by getting rid of him, by firing him.KILMEADE: So you have no problem explaining this to your grandchildren?TRUMP: No, no. We’re doing a great job. Our country is coming back. Our country is respected again. What we’re doing over there is just another sign of it. That’s just one of many things. But we have a country that’s come a long way in a short period of time. I think you know that better than anybody, Brian, you see it, you report on it every day. You look at the economy, you look at jobs, lowest employment rate in many, many – in decades. Lowest black unemployment in history, lowest Hispanic unemployment in history, lowest women unemployment in 19 years. Our country is doing well, and we are respected again. And we’re doing incredible trade deals which haven’t been negotiated for 25 years.
Bolding added to highlight a national urgency: More than a year ago, Trump sat down with Lester Holt of NBC News for an in-depth interview. There, he made a huge mistake: “When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” Since then, the president has engaged in very frequent banter with reporters at ceremonial events and the like but has shrunk from extended interviews with national media. There have been zero such sessions with CNN, ABC News, NBC News and CBS News.
Meaning that there’s a lot of pressure on the people who do get access — like Kilmeade and the “Fox & Friends” crew — both pressure to ask questions that need asking and pressure to treat the president in such a way as to secure the next interview. Guess which imperative is prevailing here?