Attempting belated damage control over his statement on Wednesday to ABC News that he’d welcome negative information about his campaign opponents from foreign governments, including Russia, President Donald Trump reversed himself on Friday morning and even pretended he never said it.
“Of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that,” he told host Steve Doocy during a 50-minute-long phone interview on his favorite morning show Fox & Friends.
Trump’s radical revision, on the morning that he was celebrating his 73rd birthday, was part of his near stream-of-consciousness musings, in which he hurled insults at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and potential Democratic opponents Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren—whom he persisted in mocking as “Pocahontas”—and declined to say whether he’d endorse a hypothetical 2024 presidential run by his current vice president, Mike Pence.
“You can’t put me in that position,” Trump told host Brian Kilmeade with a chuckle. “I certainly would give it very strong consideration.”
Calling Pelosi “a disgrace” after she suggested he’d participated in a “criminal coverup,” Trump trashed former vice president Biden: “Look everybody knows that Joe Biden doesn’t have what it takes.” Citing Biden’s two previous presidential campaigns, Trump added: “I call him 1-percent Joe. He never got more than that. Obama came along and took him off the trash heap.”
Meanwhile, Trump called the out-gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, “a joke.”
Trump also refused to say what the United States response will be to Iran’s alleged role in this week’s attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
“We’ll see what happens,” he dodged.
In a discursive answer to host Steve Doocy—who asked the president to “clarify” his comment to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “there is nothing wrong in your estimation with accepting dirt from Russia or any other foreign country,” Trump responded: ““First of all, I don’t think anybody would present me with anything bad because they know how much I love this country,” Trump said. “Nobody is going to present me with anything bad.
“If I was—and of course you have to look at it, because unless you look at it, how are you gonna know if it’s bad?—but of course you give to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that. But of course you do that. You couldn’t have that happen with our country. And everybody understands that.”
That answer—to one of his most fervent supporters in the media—directly contradicted Trump’s statement to Stephanopoulos during an on-camera Oval Office interview Wednesday, in which he said that “the FBI director is wrong” when Christopher Wray told a Senate committee, at the coaxing of Sen. Lindsey Graham, that it’s a campaign’s obligation to report such a foreign contact to the FBI.
“They have information. I think I’d take it,” Trump said on ABC, adding erroneously that he has never contacted the FBI in his life. “This is somebody that said, ‘We have information on your opponent.’ ‘Oh, let me call the FBI.’ Give me a break. Life doesn’t work that way.”
But on Fox & Friends, Trump insisted: “And I thought it was made clear. And I actually said at the beginning—I think I said that I’d do both … They say ‘Oh, he would accept it.’ But if I don’t listen, you’re not gonna know.”
Responding to Ainsley Earhardt, Trump also defended his plan to change the iconic baby-blue paintjob on Air Force One—which he attributed to “Jackie O”—to a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme.
“We have our own Jackie O,” Trump said. “Melania.”