Monday morning’s CNN New Day interview with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was anything but a typical interview.
What was originally supposed to be an 18-minute interview—about the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in advance of meeting a Kremlin-tied lawyer during the 2016 campaign—became a 36-minute amalgam of deflections, half-truths, and a courtroom-like spinning of the topic at hand.
Right out of the box, Conway began the interview by twisting questions about President Trump’s self-contradictions on the issue of Russia (his team boasted of a “cybersecurity partnership” with Putin, only for the president to tweet that it will never happen) into a relitigation of the Trumpkin trope that CNN ignores the real news—in this case, that Trump’s tweet also boasted of his ceasefire deal for southern Syria.
When the subject immediately turned to Trump Jr.’s supposedly unfruitful meeting with a Russian operative, Conway refused to discuss it. At times, her diversions consisted of snarking at CNN host Chris Cuomo (“I admire your moxie, sitting there with the CNN chyron right near you talking about credibility issues”), acting out her own version of A Few Good Men (“If we were in court, your side would not even survive a motion to dismiss because you’ve got nothing”), or attempting to change the subject (“Let’s focus on what did not happen in that meeting”).
When it once again seemed the conversation would stay focused on the Trump Jr. story, Conway masterfully pivoted to The Hill’s source-based report that former FBI Director Jim Comey’s memos of his private chats with President Trump allegedly contained classified information.
“That is a bombshell. People should know about that,” Conway asserted.
But the detour didn’t impress Cuomo much. “I just have to smile at the suggestion from the same White House that calls unnamed sources not a legitimate basis for journalism, now you're leaning on it so heavily because it suits you,” he fired back with a smirk.
Conway later tried to act as assignment editor for CNN, telling Cuomo his network should spend more time covering Trump‘s positive deeds—from the ceasefire, to his plan to have a plan on infrastructure, to his extension of a bill allowing veterans the choice to seek private medical care.
“We had the VA secretary [on CNN],” Cuomo noted, before declaring, “My conscience is clean. My mission is clear. What I do, I cover what I think matters to people. I test power and I take the consequences every damn day. And that's not going to change.”
Another effort to bring the chat back to the president’s son resulted in a frustrating five-minute exchange that involved Conway’s thoughts on Hillary Clinton, her belief that the Trump Jr.-Russia meeting “doesn’t matter,” and—once again—that CNN’s Trump coverage ignores his health care and infrastructure plans.
“Where is infrastructure?” she asked Cuomo.
“You tell me,” he answered. “Where is it? Where is your infrastructure plan, your tax policy plan? As soon as they come out, we’ll discuss them.”
To hammer home that CNN simply takes the president at his word and shines a brighter spotlight on the topics he talks about the most, Cuomo pointed out that Trump’s recent Twitter feed is “slamming [NYC Mayor Bill] de Blasio, ‘Comey leaked,’ quoting [Sean] Hannity, ‘if Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat,’ ‘When I left the conference, here’s why Ivanka sat down,’ all-caps based on unnamed sources—thought you weren’t allowed to do that, but it’s okay—more Fox & Friends, and then goes into James Woods. Where is jobs, health care? one tweet. Where is taxes? Where is his infrastructure?”
On at least four separate occasions throughout the interview, Cuomo attempted to wrap, informing Conway that her own handlers were insisting she had to leave. “I've got people yelling at me in my ear that you have to go,” he said one final time before Conway swiveled to re-litigating a retracted CNN report about a Trump associate that led to the canning of three reporters.
The ordeal is proof that CNN must try to be more positive towards the Trump White House, Conway suggested.
“Whatever CNN has done wrong, it has owned,” a visibly exasperated Cuomo explained to Conway, “in a way that is a symbol for accountability in this country. It would be nice if everybody who is wrong handled it the way CNN did. I was very proud of what this organization did.”
Unconvinced, Conway pressed on: “Be more fair. Why aren’t your panels more balanced? They have to be more balanced.”