Fox News anchor Bret Baier landed an exclusive joint interview with Donald Trump and Mike Pence on Friday. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the sit-down was taped just two hours before FBI Director James Comey sent his bombshell letter to Congress about Hillary Clinton-related emails.
Because of its problematic timing, that interview, which aired during the 6 p.m. hour on the east coast, helped highlight the abrupt change in Trump’s rhetoric since news broke that the FBI would be reviewing additional emails found on Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s laptop in connection with the Anthony Weiner sexting case.
“The system is rigged when Hillary Clinton is allowed to run for president, because what she did is criminal,” Trump told Baier Friday morning. “The FBI rolled over and the Department of Justice rolled over.” For extra emphasis, he added moments later, “When she's allowed to run for office, the FBI rolled over.” Asked if he could lose this election without it being rigged, Trump declined to answer.
Those comments were strikingly different from the ones Trump made onstage at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire just a few hours later. After telling his supporters about the new FBI probe and declaring, “Perhaps finally justice will be done,” Trump launched into his standard stump speech. (But not before telling them, "The rest of my speech is going to be so boring. Should I even make the speech?")
When Trump got to his section about the increase in Obamacare premiums, he said, seemingly by force of habit, it was “just one more way the system is rigged.” But then he stopped himself. "But with what I’ve just announced,” he said, referring to the FBI news, “it might not be as rigged as I thought, right? The FBI, I think they're going to right the ship, folks. I think they're going to right the ship. And they're going to save their great reputation by doing so."
All it took for Director Comey to get back in Trump’s good graces was the announcement that the FBI would be reviewing some newly discovered Clinton emails — not that it was reopening the investigation into her private email server, as both Trump and Pence said in their initial remarks on the issue. It was a remarkable reversal from back in July when Trump was tweeting about Comey as part of the “rigged” system against him, let alone what he said on Fox.
The decision to inch away from the “rigged” claims was also apparent in an appearance by Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani on CNN with Wolf Blitzer this afternoon. Whereas less than two weeks ago, Giuliani was saying he would have to be a “moron” to think that the election won’t be rigged against Trump, he had a very different outlook on that question following the FBI letter.
“Do I agree that that original investigation and the way it was handled by the Justice Department was entirely unethical?” he asked rhetorically. “Yes, I would agree with that. Would I call it rigged? I don’t know if I know exactly what the definition of rigged means.”