Trump calls in for rambling and ugly post-hospital interview
Posted October 8, 2020 10:43 a.m. EDT
CNN — Dialing in for his first interview since being hospitalized, President Donald Trump went on an hour-long ramble that devolved into vicious and sexist attacks on the Democrats running against him, desperate claims against old enemies and dangerous boasts about his own apparent recovery from coronavirus.
Trump's appearance did little to reverse impressions of a candidate in denial about the country's health situation or lost in a web of old grievance and comes just weeks before a presidential election that polls currently show him badly trailing. He called into Fox Business from the White House residence, where he continues taking a steroid as part of his Covid treatment.
Trump, whose voice sounded husky over the phone, said he was eager to return to the campaign trail and insisted he was no longer shedding the virus, even though he was only diagnosed a week ago. But he said he would refuse to participate in a virtual debate with Joe Biden, saying it would be easier for the moderator to cut him off.
He suggested he could have contracted the virus from a reception he held for Gold Star families at the White House last Sunday instead of the mask-less ceremony announcing his Supreme Court nominee, which has produced several cases.
He aired disappointment with three of his senior-most administration officials -- including two of his most loyal Cabinet members -- though seemed unwilling to do anything about it, saying he didn't want to talk about it further.
And he lobbed accusations against Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, that edged into the realm of Joseph McCarthy.
"She's a communist. She's not a socialist, she's well beyond a socialist," he said, going on to make false, fear-mongering claims that Harris wants to "open up the borders to allow killers and murderers and rapists to pour into our country."
He twice called Harris, the first woman of color on a major party ticket, a "monster."
The appearance shoved aside any coverage of Wednesday evening's vice presidential debate. And it seemed to solidify the impression of a candidate in deep distress about the state of his campaign.
Left unanswered were the many open questions about Trump's condition, which weren't asked by his pliant interviewer. He did not address what his lung scans showed, didn't say when he last tested negative and wasn't asked how high his temperature reached at the end of last week, when he was airlifted to Walter Reed.
Instead he sought to paint himself the picture of health.
"I'm back because I am a perfect physical specimen and I'm extremely young. And so I'm lucky in that way," Trump said. Trump, at 74, is clinically obese and has known heart issues.
Trump has been eager to put his hospitalization behind him. He returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, briefed by aides decked out in full protective gear on a looming hurricane and stimulus talks. Already, travel has been discussed for next week, even though based on the time of Trump's infection he would likely still be contagious.
Trump shrugged those concerns off in his interview.
"I don't think I'm contagious at all," he claimed.
He listed three senior members of his administration who he said have displeased him, for different reasons. Some, such as FBI Director Christopher Wray, have irritated Trump for months. But his criticism of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was new.
"I'm not happy about him, for that," Trump said of his top diplomat for not surfacing emails he says were deleted by his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton.
He also went after Attorney General William Barr, who he said would go down in history as "a sad situation" if he doesn't prosecute Trump's political rivals.
"Bill has got to move," he said, suggesting time was running short for his administration officials to use their offices to go after his opponents.