All that — and much more — came in a freewheeling 45-minute phone interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning.
In a session reminiscent in style of his early days as a presidential candidate, Trump also said he considers it possible that the New York Times actually made up an op-ed that it said was authored by an anonymous senior member of his administration.
Trump said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a leading critic of his Justice Department, might deserve “a medal of honor.” He didn’t deny a Washington Post report that he had talked to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff about replacing Sessions. And he made clear that if Sessions doesn’t agree with him on criminal justice reform, Trump will have the final say.
“If he doesn’t, he gets overruled by me, because I make the decision, he doesn’t,” Trump said on the Fox News morning program, of which he is a frequent viewer.
The interview started innocuously enough, with Trump pledging a robust response to Hurricane Michael and assessing the storm this way: “This thing was in and out. . . . It was tremendously powerful, but really it was a speedster.”
He dismissed criticism for staging a politically rally in Pennsylvania while the storm was battering Florida — saying thousands of people were waiting to hear from him inside and outside the rally site.
“I think really when I explained it there was no heat,” Trump said, adding: “Except for the natural haters.”
The president said he is eager to host rap star Kanye West and football legend Jim Brown Thursday at the White House, where criminal justice will be on the agenda. Trump said he agreed that some sentences are too harsh, citing his recent commutation of a sentence for a woman whose early release was championed by Kim Kardashian West, the rap star’s wife.
“It’s very unfair to African Americans, it’s very unfair to everybody,” Trump said.
Citing Brown and others, Trump claimed “tremendous support” from black athletes.
He later took aim at Holder, who served as attorney general under President Barack Obama, for comments made during a campaign event in McDonough, Ga., on Sunday.
At the event for Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Stacey Abrams, Holder said he disagrees with former first lady Michelle Obama’s high-minded riff, “when they go low, we go high.”
“No, no,” Holder said. “When they go low, we kick ’em. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.”
Trump told “Fox & Friends” that he considers that “a very dangerous statement.”
“He better be careful what he’s wishing for, that I can tell you,” the president said, suggesting that such remarks could lead to violence.
“My rallies are really calm and well run. We don’t have problems at our rallies,” said Trump, who once said he was looking into paying the legal fees for a man who sucker-punched a protester during one of his campaign rallies.
Trump dismissed Holder’s 2020 presidential ambitions, predicting that the primaries would “gobble him up,” and then took shots at several other potential Democratic contenders.
Trump said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) “ran Newark into the ground,” a reference to Booker’s days as mayor of the city.
Trump accused Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) of having “faked her heritage,” a reference to her claims of Native American ancestry, which she says are based on family lore. “I have more Indian blood in me than her, and I have none,” Trump said.
At first, he refrained from criticizing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), another potential 2020 rival, saying, “I have to give it to Bernie, he’s in there fighting.”
But egged on by one of the Fox hosts about Sanders’s “Medicare-for-all” single-payer health-care plan, Trump couldn’t resist.
“If you look at Bernie’s plan, it’s a catastrophe,” Trump said, asserting that people in other countries that have adopted similar plans “come to our country when they need operations.”
Trump suggested that he is confident he could beat any one of the current Democratic prospects but added: “I just hope we don’t get a star or good thinker coming out of anywhere.”
Later in the interview, Trump reasserted that he gets along well with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, whose job seemed in jeopardy just a couple of weeks ago.
When asked for his thoughts on Rosenstein’s decision not to appear this week before a joint House panel reviewing the Justice Department investigation of Trump’s alleged Russia ties, Trump said he was “a little surprised that Rod wouldn’t do it.”
Trump also praised several of the Republican congressman who have been the harshest critics of Rosenstein and the Justice Department.
He singled out efforts by Nunes to expose wrongdoing, saying, “Devin Nunes should get the Medal of Honor.”
Trump criticized several former Justice Department officials, including James B. Comey, the FBI director he fired.
Trump asserted that Comey had gone easy on Clinton in investigating her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Clinton should be in jail, Trump said. “They should have taken her right off the campaign.”
Trump did not dispute a Washington Post report that he talked recently with Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, about replacing Sessions.
“I never talk about that,” Trump said. “I never talk about conversations I have.”
“The Washington Post gets it wrong a lot,” he added.
When asked about Sessions’s fate, Trump was hardly definitive.
“I want to get the elections over. We’ll see what happens,” he said, referring to next month’s midterms.
Trump also questioned the credibility of the New York Times, suggesting that it could have made up a high-profile op-ed purportedly written by a member of his administration who said many officials work to curb the president’s worst impulses.
“I wouldn’t be that surprised because the Times is so corrupt and dishonest,” Trump said, though he made it clear that “I don’t say it’s a good chance.”
On a more upbeat note, Trump said he could envision working with Democrats on several issues if they win back the House in November. Among them: infrastructure.
A plan put forward by Trump’s administration to rebuild the country’s roads, bridges, airports and seaports went nowhere on Capitol Hill this year, in part because of Republican concerns about the cost.
“Can we get along?” Trump said of Democrats. “Maybe. There is a possibility they want infrastructure, I want infrastructure.”
He said he was “not happy” with funding to date for construction of his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but restated his desire for Congress to take bold action after the midterm elections.
“Right after the election, we’re doing something very strong on the wall,” Trump said.
Trump also asserted that his presidency has not been good for his bottom line as a real estate developer.
“I’ll bet you’ve I’ve lost billions of dollars,” he said, adding: “It’s worth every penny of it. … I’m doing so much for the country.”