The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump congratulates himself for influencing Comey’s testimony with White House tapes ruse

Trump accuses Mueller of bias in Russia probe (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump gave his first interview in more than a month on Thursday, and the result — airing Friday morning on Fox News — included Trump congratulating himself for his suggestion that there might be tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director James B. Comey.

What's interesting here is that this isn't the official White House position. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Thursday that Trump's six-week-old tweet about possible tapes was meant to threaten or influence Comey. But then Trump, as he often does (most notably when he suggested to NBC that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation), just went out and basically said it himself.

Below is the full interview between Fox's Ainsley Earhardt, Trump and first lady Melania Trump, along with our notes and analysis. To see an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.


EARHARDT: Today there are four senators that are not supporting this health care bill, four Republican senators. What is your message to them, because your supporters that voted for you are a little frustrated, because you have the White House, Republicans have the House and the Senate, but you have these senators that are not on board.

TRUMP: Well, they're also four good guys and they're four friends of mine. And I think that they'll probably get there. We'll have to see.

You know, health care is a very difficult situation. If you look, the Clintons tried to get it and after years and years, they couldn't do it. Obamacare was murder for them to get. And now it failed. It's virtually out of business. Obamacare is a disaster. And we're trying to do something in a very short period of time.

It's interesting, because I've been here for only five months. People are saying, where's the health care, where's the health care? Well, I've done in five months what other people haven't done in years. And it's been — people have worked on health care for many years. It's a very complicated situation from the standpoint, you do something that's good for one group but bad for another.

It's that very, very narrow path. But I think we're going to get there. We have four very good people that — it's not that they're opposed, they'd like to get certain changes. And we'll see if we can take care of that.

EARHARDT: We're getting word now that some Democrats even want Nancy Pelosi to step down. A lot of Republicans think Democrats are in denial, they didn't win these special elections, they don't have the House, they don’t have the Senate, they don’t have the White House.

What do Democrats need to do? Are they in denial? And what do they need to do to get on board?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I hope she doesn't step down. I think that it would be a very, very sad for Republicans if she steps down. I'd be very, very disappointed if she did. I'd like to keep her right where she is, because our record is extraordinary against her.

But we'll see what happens. There has been a lot of talk about her stepping down. We'll have to see what happens. The victory in Atlanta was very big. They spent $30 million. We had a candidate who did a very, very good job. I think I helped a lot. And we had a great candidate.

But we are 5 and 0, as you know, in these special elections. And I think the Democrats thought it would be a lot different than that. 5-0 is a big — that's a big margin. And this last one was very interesting, though, because they put everything into it. They had every consultant, they had agencies — advertising agencies.

EARHARDT: Hollywood.

TRUMP: I mean think of it — Hollywood came out. And in the end, we won quite easily, much, you know, by a bigger margin than anybody would have thought.

So they're going to have to do something. I will say this. They are, right now, obstructionists. All they want to do is try and obstruct. I think they'd do much better, as a party, if they got along with us, if they called us and said let's work on health care together, let's work on tax cuts together and tax reform. Let's work on infrastructure together. We can do it together.

I honestly think they'd do better at the polls. I think the American public is tired of obstructionists. And I honestly believe that. And when I say that, boy, would the people love to see two parties getting together and coming up with the perfect health-care plan, because Obamacare has failed now. It's dead. The insurance companies are all flocking and leaving. And it's a real problem.

EARHARDT: Wouldn't that be refreshing if we could all come together …

TRUMP: It would be so nice.


TRUMP: And that's the way it should be. And there have been moments in our country's history where that's what happened. And those were the greatest things, whether it was Social Security or Medicare. It was two parties got together and came up with great solutions to problems.

I don't think that's going to happen, but that is what should happen.


EARHARDT: Congratulations, you moved into the White House — how is it?

MELANIA TRUMP: We are enjoying it very much.

EARHARDT: How about Barron with school — is he settled?

MELANIA TRUMP: He loves it, yes, all settled. He loves it here.

EARHARDT: Good. Are you missing New York?

MELANIA TRUMP: Not really. I’m so busy and we’re doing so many great stuff. So it’s really special place and I love it here.

EARHARDT: And tonight …

MELANIA TRUMP: Tonight, it’s a great picnic, Congressional Picnic, with all of us getting together. It's New York City team. And we have carousel and great stuff outside.

EARHARDT: Great. Big news today, you didn't have — you said you didn't tape James Comey. Do you want to explain that? Why did you want him to believe that you possibly did that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I didn't tape him. You never know what's happening when you see that the Obama administration, and perhaps longer than that, was doing all of unmasking and surveillance and you read all about it. And I've been reading about it for the last couple of months about the seriousness of the — and horrible situation with surveillance all over the place. And you've been hearing the word unmasking, a word you probably never heard before. So you never know what's out there.

But I didn't tape. And I don't have any tape and I didn't tape. But when he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean you'll have to take a look at that, because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.

And my story didn't change. My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth. But you'll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed. But I did not tape.

EARHARDT: So it was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings?

TRUMP: Well, it wasn't — it wasn't very stupid, I can tell you that. He was — he did admit that what I said was right. And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn't admitting that.

So you'll have to do a little investigative reporting to determine that. But I don't think it will be that hard.

EARHARDT: Robert Mueller, do you think he should recuse himself from the investigation? Because he is good friends with James Comey. He's hired some attorneys that were part of Hillary Clinton's foundation and have given money to President Obama and Hillary Clinton's campaign?

Should he recuse himself?

TRUMP: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he's also — we're going to have to see. I mean we're going to have to see in terms — look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But that's been no collusion, no obstruction and virtually everybody agrees to that.

So we'll have to see. I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous, if you want to know the truth, from that standpoint.

But Robert Mueller is an honorable man and hopefully he'll come up with an honorable solution.