In a lengthy interview with Sean Hannity, President Trump lavished praise on Attorney General William P. Barr, refused to rule out pardoning indicted campaign aides and thanked Fox News for its coverage throughout the Russia investigation.
Trump called into Hannity’s show Wednesday night and talked for 45 minutes with the host, giving his first one-on-one interview since the Mueller probe ended last week. Most of that time was spent denigrating the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Trump’s victory lap after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not establish a criminal conspiracy — but did not make a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice — included bashing the FBI as “dirty cops,” former FBI director James B. Comey as “a terrible guy,” and former CIA director John Brennan as a “sick person.”
But Trump spoke glowingly about Barr, who will ultimately decide how much of Mueller’s report to make public, calling him “a great gentleman” and saying “had he been there initially, this all wouldn’t have happened.”
Hannity asked Trump whether he would consider pardoning Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, who had both been charged during the investigation.
“Many, many people were incredibly hurt by this whole scam.” Trump said. He added, “I don’t want to talk about pardons now, but I can say it’s so sad on so many levels.”
Hannity then showed Trump a montage of CNN pundits predicting that Mueller would uncover a conspiracy between Trump and Russia. Trump took the opening to bash the media and then name-checked Fox News and many of its hosts for their “credibility.”
The president also claimed that his comments to NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking about “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey was misconstrued by the network because actually he knew all along that firing Comey would make things worse.
Trump described the entire Russia investigation as an attempt by Democrats to stage a government takeover. He also expressed regret that he didn’t press for an investigation into Hillary Clinton after the election.
“I said, ‘You know, let’s not think about the past. Let’s think about the future,’ ” Trump said, referring to the night of the election. “But now, I think thinking about the past is just okay.”
He said that despite being the “most innocent human being,” he didn’t know what the Mueller report would ultimately conclude because “you know, maybe they would take a sentence from here and a sentence from there.”
Trump also took aim at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has been vocal in his view that there was compelling evidence of coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
“He should be forced out of office. He is a disgrace to our country,” Trump said, echoing comments made in recent days by other White House officials.
Trump also said he would “absolutely” declassify material related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders that the FBI used to monitor his former adviser Carter Page’s communications. But Trump hasn’t always followed through with such threats in the past.
The conversation pivoted briefly to policy and politics, with Trump saying that he plans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border in California in two weeks. When Hannity asked him how much of the border wall has been fixed and built, Trump said, “We repaired, I mean, literally, many, many miles. I could give you numbers, but many, many miles.”
He said the Democrats’ proposed Green New Deal (which he and Hannity called the “New Green Deal”) would cost $100 trillion, which is “more money than you have in the world!” (That figure, which Trump has stated before, seems to come from a tweet by a conservative economist.)
Hannity also mentioned health care, which Republicans lamented over this week after Trump brought it up, shifting focus away from what they see as a favorable Mueller report and onto a policy weakness.
Without offering specifics, Trump assured Hannity, “We’re going to do great. We’re going to have great health care.”
Devlin Barrett and John Wagner contributed to this report.