Thursday, October 22, 2020

EARLY VOTING IS NOW UNDERWAY IN ALL STATES THAT ALLOW IT, except for New York and parts of Florida (begins Oct. 24), Maryland (Oct. 26), Washington D.C. (Oct. 27), and Oklahoma (Oct. 29).

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made it clearer why he's worried about the 60 Minutes interview.

Trump's days-long attack on 60 Minutes over an interview came into clearer focus today, as he released video of the interview taken by White House staff. The interview itself isn't likely to do Trump any favors, but the portions before and after the formal interview are especially damaging. They show Trump complaining that he didn't know there would be "tough questions." 

The video is cropped to begin with Stahl in mid-sentence. It's not clear how much of their conversation prior to that was edited out. 

STAHL: —for some tough questions?

TRUMP: You're gonna be fair?

STAHL: [inaudible]

TRUMP: Just be fair.

STAHL: Well, last time I remember you saying to me, "Bring it on, bring it on."

TRUMP: I'm not looking for that, I'm looking for fairness, that's all.

STAHL: You're going to get fairness. But you're okay with some tough questions?

TRUMP: No, I'm not.

STAHL: [laughing] You're not okay with tough questions?

TRUMP: Well [inaudible] gonna be fair. You don't ask Biden tough questions.

STAHL: Me? I don't interview Biden, I only interview you. 

TRUMP: It's terrible, it's terrible. You know that. 

STAHL: I didn't want to have this kind of interview—

TRUMP: Of course you did. Of course you did.

STAHL: No, I didn't—

TRUMP: Well, then you brought up a lot of subjects that were— were inappropriately brought up.
STAHL: Well, I said I would ask you tough questions—

TRUMP: They were inappropriately brought up! Right from the beginning! No, your first question was [mocking tone] "This is going to be tough questions." Well, when you first set up the interview, your first statement was—

STAHL: You're the president. Don't you think you should be accountable—

TRUMP: Excuse me! No, no, no, listen. Your first statement to me, "This is gonna be tough questions." Well, I don't mind that, but— when you set up the interview, you didn't say that! You said, "Oh, let's have a lovely interview." And, and, here's what I do say—

STAHL: So why—

TRUMP: You don't ask Joe Biden, I saw your interview with Joe Biden, the interview with Joe Biden, it was a joke. 

STAHL: I never did a Joe Biden interview!

TRUMP: The interview, 60 Minutes. I see Joe Biden giving softball after softball. I've seen all of his interviews. He's never been asked a question that's hard. 

STAHL: Okay, but forget him for a minute. You're the president—

TRUMP: You start with me— excuse me, Lesley, you started with me, your first statement was "Are you ready for tough questions?" That's no way to talk. That's no way to talk. 

At that point, a voice off-camera interrupts with a question about the schedule for the rest of the interview. Trump refuses to continue, and gets up to leave the set.

In other words, Trump appears to have genuinely believed that he would get "softball" questions in a "lovely" interview from a major news program two weeks before the election—and was so upset when he didn't get them that he cut short the interview. 

Ironically, Trump's attempt to pre-empt the story is making it more obvious what happened. Normally, footage from outside the interview proper would never have been aired. 

Why is this a problem?

  • Presidents don't get to demand easy questions.
  • It shouldn't be this easy to intimidate a president.