Twelve days left. This is what he’d like us to spend one of them talking about, it seems.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2020
Watch below and you’ll find that the interview is contentious, but mostly it’s familiar. It’s all the same old topics — why is the U.S. doing so poorly with COVID, why is he standoffish about masks and hostile to Fauci, where’s his alternative to ObamaCare, why hasn’t the wall been built, why does he want to lock up Joe Biden and Gretchen Whitmer. And Trump does fine, with all the same old talking points. He even mentions the idea that we have so many cases only because we’re testing so much, something he said a lot over the summer but has stayed away from recently because of the heat he’s taken for it.
What set him off, I think, is Stahl scoffing at some of his proudest achievements as president and as a politician. We created the best economy in U.S. history, he boasts. Oh, come on, she says, you inherited a good economy from Obama. We’re doing record-setting rallies nowadays, he insists. Your rallies were bigger in 2016, she counters. Where she really gets under his skin is when he starts talking about Biden being in the middle of the scandal at around 21:00 and she counters that there’s no evidence of that. Watch at least five minutes or so starting at that point; he goes on to say that the Obama administration spied on his campaign and she answers that there’s no real evidence of that either. We can’t put it on the air without something verifiable, she insists, presumably alluding to the unfinished Durham probe and the finished-but-fizzled Bash investigation into unmasking. No, he says, you won’t put it on the air because you’re biased.
And this part does show bias, to be sure:
This exchange between Trump and Lesley Stahl is insane. She repeatedly insists the Biden laptops “can’t be verified” so reporters shouldn’t talk about it.
Trump asks her why it can’t be verified.
Her answer: “Because it can’t be verified.” pic.twitter.com/cf9hcSGnrm
— Anders Hagstrom (@Hagstrom_Anders) October 22, 2020
The FBI could verify that the laptop is what it’s claimed to be, but the Bureau doesn’t discuss active investigations. Usually. Or, Stahl herself could try to verify it by deploying CBS’s considerable investigative resources. She seems … unmotivated.
Another thing you’ll notice in the full interview is how often Trump denies saying something that he actually did say recently. Stahl asks him about calling Fauci an idiot. When did I say that, asks Trump? On Monday of this week, in a phone call with his campaign: “People are tired of hearing Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong.” Later Stahl asks him about saying he’d lock up the Bidens and Whitmer. I never said that, Trump replies. But he did — explicitly about the Bidens, and then at a rally in Michigan when the crowd started chanting “lock her up” about Whitmer, he answered, “Lock ’em all up.” Either he doesn’t remember the things he says in the moment to egg on his fans or he does and he’s reflexively lying to get out of a jam.
In the end, there’s probably only one line in the whole 37 minutes that might end up in an ad:
"I hope that they end it. It'll be so good if they end it." — here's Trump saying he hopes SCOTUS strikes down the ACA during a pandemic pic.twitter.com/1bTonnA2YJ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 22, 2020
Meanwhile, CBS put out a statement this morning complaining about Trump’s decision to post the full interview:
CBS News statement: "The White House’s unprecedented decision to disregard their agreement with CBS News and release their footage will not deter 60 MINUTES from providing its full, fair and contextual reporting which presidents have participated in for decades." pic.twitter.com/ssc5Y4wTsF
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 22, 2020
At a minimum, him releasing the uncut clip will force them to be extra fair in how they edit his answers for broadcast. It may also force them to include more of Stahl’s comments pushing back on him, to explain why he felt so antagonized afterward. The obvious thing to do (which they may have been planning to do anyway) is to post their own uncut recordings of their interviews with Trump, Pence, Biden, and Harris to the “60 Minutes” website as a gesture towards full transparency.
A question to consider while you watch: Why post this today instead of holding it for tomorrow, just in case Trump has a bad debate tonight and needs something to change the subject in a pinch? In particular, why post this today as a sneak preview for Team Biden as to how Trump is apt to respond to similar questions this evening? Even if he has a good debate and doesn’t want to step on the coverage tomorrow by releasing this then, he could have released it on Saturday and stolen away some of CBS’s viewers for Sunday night’s interview that way. Anyway, 12 days to go.