With the midterm vote less than a week away, President Trump sat down for a wide-ranging interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl to discuss some of the more pressing issues affecting the vote. In remarks that, at times, sounded like Trump was deliberately trying to trigger Democrats and journalists who have opposed his administration at every turn.
Early in the interview, Trump insisted that, if Democrats win control of the House and try to investigate his finances, he would cooperate because he has nothing to hide. “I’m an open book”, he said. But in one of the interview’s most memorable lines, Trump said that he “tries to tell the truth” when he can, while pointing out that ABC sometimes reports things about the Trump administration that aren’t necessarily truthful – a claim that went unchallenged by Karl.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I try. I do try. I think you try too. You say things about me that aren’t necessarily correct. I do try, and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.
Trump’s statement, which will elicited howls of indignation from journalists on twitter, comes on the heels of a Washington Post fact checker report alleging that Trump made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims during the first 601 days of his presidency. And the misleading statements have continued to this day, according to WaPo: “Since then, as Trump has ratcheted up his rhetoric in advance of the midterm elections, he has continued to mislead voters and invent facts.”
He, for instance, said a middle-class tax cut would be passed by Nov. 1, even though Congress wasn’t in session and had no plans to reconvene before the elections.
He has repeatedly asserted that Republicans are more committed than Democrats to protecting people with preexisting health conditions, despite numerous past actions contrary to that claim.
And he has asserted that the United States is the only country to grant automatic citizenship to children born on its territory, despite the fact that more than 30 other nations have a similar “birthright citizenship” policies.
And, in what sounded to us like an expert troll, Trump disputed media reports about the size of the migrant caravans heading toward the US’s southern border, asserting that “I’m pretty good at estimating crowd sizes.” This claim followed a question about Trump’s decision to send 15,000 troops to the border in anticipation of the caravans’ arrival, to which Trump said that, if we can’t have a proper border wall, then we should at least have “a wall of people.”
DONALD TRUMP: It’s very important. We have to have a wall of people –- very highly trained people, terrific, dedicated patriots. That’s what they are. You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than it’s reported actually. I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size. And I’ll tell you they look a lot bigger than people would think. So we’ll find out. They had a very rough one just formed in El Salvador if you can believe it. And it was very nasty, you saw what took place. And you look at what’s coming up through Honduras through Mexico. And Mexico is helping us. But these are rough people in those crowds. And Mexico suffered a lot of damage in the last skirmish.
While on the subject of the caravan, ABC’s Karl asked Trump why he’s so keen to beef up border security when the crowds of people are mostly impoverished migrants who pose little, if any threat, to Americans. To this, Trump insisted that the crowd included “dangerous” members of MS-13 and once again characterized it as “an invasion.” Trump also insisted that “national security covers a lot of territory” when his interviewer tried to insist that the border troops wouldn’t be able to arrest migrants crossing the border.
Toward the end of the interview, Trump denied ABC’s claim that he wanted to get rid of the requirement that health insurers must cover preexisting conditions, saying instead that he wanted to replace it with something better. Democrats have been having a hard time, Trump said earlier in the interview, because “they haven’t been winning” before claiming that he would try his best to work with them if they did take back Congress.
DONALD TRUMP: “I want to replace pre-existing conditions and I’ve always been there. What the Democrats are going to do is destroy our entire health care and you’re not going to have any health care. You would destroy the country. You are not going to have health care,” he said. “The Democrats are going to literally — you’ll have to pay three times the taxes and they’ll destroy health care as we know it in this country. You won’t have pre-existing conditions. You wont have anything.”
He ended the interview again criticizing Paul Ryan for standing up for birthright citizenship. “The Supreme Court should take care of that” Trump said, referring to any legal obstacles to throwing out the privilege.
Of course, President Trump isn’t the first politician to justify being less than truthful at times when the public welfare is at stake. Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said back in 2014 that sometimes compromises are necessary to achieve political results – and sometimes, to accomplish this, these actions must be hidden from public scrutiny (like, for example, when you’re pushing for the creation of the eurozone), according to the Telegraph.
“When it becomes serious, you have to lie,” he said.
Watch select clips from the interview below: