By the time ABC News aired its lengthy, wide-ranging, and extensive interview with President Trump on Sunday evening, many of the most headline-making moments had already been released by the network via excerpts.
Washington has already been rocked, for example, by the bombshell revelation that Trump was seemingly open to the idea of receiving dirt on his 2020 opponents from foreign entities and didn’t think it was necessary to contact the FBI if approached.
But while we already knew heading into Sunday night that Trump wouldn’t speak to Robert Mueller because he was concerned about lying, that he didn’t fire Mueller because firings didn’t “work out too well” for Richard Nixon, and that he believes former White House Counsel Don McGahn lied to Mueller to make himself look good, there were still a number of eyebrow-raising tidbits from the full interview.
1) Trump hopes North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un isn’t building nuclear weapons because “he likes me a lot.”
Discussing the president’s claim a year ago that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos pressed the president on the fact that the reclusive nation still has stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Trump, meanwhile, insisted that there had been no nuclear testing by the country before boasting about his warm relationship with dictator Kim Jong Un.
After the president bragged about the concessions he had received from North Korea (and the “very nice letters” from Kim), Stephanopoulos asked him point blank if he thought the brutal North Korean leader was still building nuclear weapons.
“I don’t know. I hope not,” Trump replied. “He promised me he wouldn’t be. He promised we—me—he wouldn’t be testing. I think he’d like to meet again. And I think he likes me a lot. And I think—you know, I think that we have a chance to do something.”
2) Trump dismisses the rising national debt under his watch because Obama/Biden “doubled” it.
Complaining about the Federal Reserve and his belief that interest rates are holding the economy back, Trump insisted that if it weren’t for recent interest rate hikes the stock market would be “10,000 points higher” than it currently is. That prompted him to take aim at his predecessors over the national debt.
“What I don’t like is when you raise the interest rates, there’s no inflation—there’s virtually no inflation,” the president said. “When you raise interest rates, that means you’re paying more in debt. And I inherited almost $21 trillion in debt. I inherited that. President Obama and Biden, they doubled the debt during their eight years. You know that.”
When Stephanopoulos attempted to point out that the debt has been soaring under Trump’s watch, the president groused that he had to “rebuild the military” while the Obama administration “doubled the debt on nonsense.” Trump has vowed to eliminate the national debt in eight years. His budget plans, however, would leave it 50 percent higher.
3) Trump falsely claims that he didn’t campaign for the House during the 2018 midterms.
Dismissing concerns that many voters are turned off by his nonstop Twitter activity and penchant for personal insults, Trump claimed the 2018 midterm elections were a success for him because the Republican Party held on to the Senate. Stephanopoulos, naturally, noted that the GOP lost the House of Representatives as Democrats picked up 40 seats.
According to Trump, that loss was due to the fact that he didn’t get involved in House races.
“Well, I didn’t campaign for the House,” Trump stated. “Remember this also. I wanted to say, ‘I’m running. I’m running. I’m running.’ But I wasn’t running. There’s a big difference when I run and when I just say, ‘Hey, I hope you vote for somebody.’ But look at Senate. We had 51. They thought they were going to take over the Senate, and we took it from 51 to 53.”
The Brookings Institution, however, found that the president endorsed 75 House and Senate candidates during the 2018 election, of whom 55 percent won their races. Of the nearly 40 candidates Trump hit the campaign trail for (who were largely in safe Republican districts), 64 percent won.
4) Trump demanded his acting chief of staff leave the interview because he couldn’t stop coughing.
As Trump was talking to Stephanopoulos about releasing his tax returns, someone off-camera began coughing. Trump began answering the ABC News anchor’s question, but he stopped midway and wanted to start over.
“And let’s do that over, he’s coughing in the middle of my answer,” Trump grumbled. “I don’t like that, you know, I don’t like that.”
It was revealed that the cougher in question was none other than acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney—and Trump then demanded Mulvaney leave.
“If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t—you just can’t cough. Boy, oh boy,” the president huffed.
5) Trump claimed that he’d finally reveal his plan to replace Obamacare in “the next month.”
Trump leaned heavily on one of his favorite rhetorical crutches when he told Stephanopoulos that he’d be revealing a new health-care plan very soon.
After Trump claimed that Americans will have “the greatest health care that anybody’s ever had” if the GOP sweeps the House, Senate, and White House in 2020, the ABC host asked when the new plan would be revealed.
“And you said, yesterday you told me, you’re going have a plan, in what, the next couple of weeks?” Stephanopoulos wondered aloud, prompting Trump to reply: “I’m going have a plan over the next month.”
Trump has long promised to provide additional information on a whole host of issues in the “next two weeks.” This time around, he’s claiming it will be a month. That may come as news to the Republican senators he’s tasked with crafting the plan, however, as The Daily Beast reported earlier this month that their Obamacare replacement push has been “totally abandoned.”