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Opinion George Stephanopoulos is filleting President Trump, clip by clip

President Trump. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

When you have no arguments, try insults. That’s the low road that Fox News host Sean Hannity took on Wednesday night after ABC News surfaced tape of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos quizzing President Trump on whether he’d take information from China or Russia in the upcoming presidential election. The president’s response was scandalously unaware.

“Little Georgie, we call him,” said Hannity on Thursday’s edition of “Fox & Friends,” slighting the ABC newsman’s physical stature.

It’s no surprise Hannity shares the pettiness of his buddy Trump. “You’re being a little wise guy, okay, which is typical for you,” Trump tells Stephanopoulos in the latest clip that ABC News released as part of the anchor’s extended interview with the president.

What had touched off the president? Oh, just some very logical and reasonable questions from Stephanopoulos about the findings of the Mueller report. After Trump asserts that there never should have been a special counsel because there’s no “evidence of crimes,” Stephanopoulos counters by pointing out that, in fact, Mueller laid out copious evidence. Prime example: The time that Trump directed then-White House counsel Donald McGahn to dismiss Mueller — an episode that’s spelled out in great deal in Volume II of the report.

Trump to Stephanopoulos: “The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.”

McGahn says otherwise, noted the anchor. “I don’t care what he says, doesn’t matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was,” responded Trump.

Okay, replied Stephanopolous, but why would McGahn lie under oath?

TRUMP: Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or, or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen, including you, including the media, that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of —
STEPHANOPOULOS: And has to go —
TRUMP: I never — I didn’t say that.

The McGahn-Mueller situation was among the various items in Mueller’s opus, an investigative area in which Trump “did not similarly agree to provide written answers to questions,” notes the report itself. So Stephanopoulos asked: “If you’re talking to me about McGahn, why not tell Mueller the same stuff?”

It’s clear from the video that the question stuns Trump. He starts out saying, “Because . . . ” as he figures out what kind of excuse he can string together. He opts for: “They were looking to get us for lies or slight misstatements. I looked at what happened to people, and it was very unfair. Very, very unfair. Very unfair.” All standard Trump cant.

When Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on his failure to answer questions on obstruction, the president issued his “little wise guy” slight. It’s an appropriate clip to promote ABC News’s Sunday prime-time special that packages the anchor’s interview with the president.

The sit-down is a big deal for a couple of reasons. Since the release of the Mueller report in April, President Trump has done a dizzying number of short Q&A sessions with the White House press corps, a number of interviews here and his usual burst of rage-tweets. But sometimes it takes a protracted session with one journalist to get to the heart of things. According to ABC News, Stephanopoulos spent the better part of 30 hours with the president, including a trip to Iowa. Never let it be said that this president isn’t accessible.

Another thing: Fox News reacts like a child when it espies a challenge to its monopoly on Trump interviews. Just how thorough is that monopoly? According to Media Matters, Fox entities — Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Broadcasting — have secured 56 interviews with Trump since he took office (more than 70 percent of his national TV interviews). And this year, 14 out of 17 of the national broadcast and cable interviews have been with Fox News or Fox Business.

Fox News personalities roared as Stephanopoulos’s clips have made the rounds. On Wednesday evening, Fox News host Laura Ingraham was talking with guest Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution:

INGRAHAM: Victor, setting aside the question of why you would have George Stephanopoulos standing over the president in the Oval Office — I don’t know who approved that — but what about this notion of accepting foreign intel about an opponent? Is that a risk for President Trump getting pulled back into Mueller? Again, why he was put in that situation is beyond me.
DAVIS HANSON: Well, you hit the nail on the head. You shouldn’t ever talk to George Stephanopoulos, one. And, two, any question about foreign intelligence, that should be the end of the conversation, because it can be manipulated and distorted.

Ingraham’s fellow prime-time Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on Thursday night, “I’m not here to defend Trump’s interview with Stephanopoulos. Why would you have given an interview to Stephanopoulos in the first place? It’s a very good question.”

And there was Hannity on his Thursday night show, again insulting “Georgie Little Stephanopoulos, the Clinton sycophant.” These are the whines of a corrupt Trump establishment.


Harvard University professor Danielle Allen says it is wrong to discuss impeachment as a purely political question, not a legal, moral, or constitutional one. (Video: The Washington Post)

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