Politico

Trump escalates feud with Lesley Stahl by posting '60 Minutes' interview


President Donald Trump followed through Thursday on his threat to undercut an interview set to air on “60 Minutes” this weekend, posting what he said is the uncut version of the contentious conversation.

The president’s move represented an escalation of his fight with the media hours ahead of the final presidential debate, set for Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn.

In a tweet and on his Facebook post, the president urged viewers to “look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.” He claimed that the moderator of Thursday’s debate, NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker, “is far worse!”

The 37-minute video begins with a tense exchange over correspondent Lesley Stahl’s line of questioning, with Stahl asking the president whether he’s prepared for tough questions and Trump instructing her to “just be fair.”

When Stahl notes that the last time she interviewed Trump he told her to “bring it on,” the president responds that “I’m not looking for that” and that he was not OK with being asked tough questions.

Trump’s solo interview remains set to air alongside one with Vice President Mike Pence and in conjunction with interviews with his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

But Trump cut his interview short while it was being taped Tuesday without taping anything with Pence — news that came to light when the president posted a video of a maskless Stahl in the White House on his Twitter and teased “there is much more to come.”

Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that “I will soon be giving a first in television history full, unedited preview of the vicious attempted ‘takeout’ interview of me by Lesley Stahl of @60Minutes. Watch her constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and ‘magnificently brilliant’ answers to their ‘Q’s’.”

Once Trump posted the White House’s footage of the interview, CBS quickly announced that it would not be deterred from airing its segment with the president.

“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,” CBS said in a statement of Trump’s move. The network defended Stahl and its flagship news magazine program as “widely respected for bringing its hallmark fairness, deep reporting and informative context to viewers each week.”

After their initial exchange to kick off the interview, Stahl proceeded to repeatedly challenge Trump, questioning his assertions that the coronavirus pandemic is nearing its end even though cases are on the rise across much of the country. The “60 Minutes” correspondent also pushed the president on his frequent claim that his presidency had yielded the “greatest economy in the history of our country.”

When Stahl peppered Trump with questions about his recent denunciation of his infectious diseases chief as an “idiot,” the lack of safety protocols at his campaign rallies such as requiring face masks and suggested that his prepandemic rallies drew larger crowds, Trump complained about Stahl’s “negative attitude.”

She also tried to drill down on the Affordable Care Act replacement plan that Trump has promised for years but has not released.

When Stahl quoted the president’s own words, a plea for the suburban women abandoning Republicans in droves to “please like me,” Trump bristled at her tone and insisted he was only joking.

“The way you said that is why people think of you and everyone else as fake news,” the president told her. He then said that he “doubts” polls that show him in a hole with suburban women.

Trump cut the interview short not long after Stahl asked him about a recently uncovered plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor, whom Trump has repeatedly berated over her state’s coronavirus restrictions. At a rally in Michigan over the weekend, attendees chanted “lock her up” about Whitmer, prompting Trump to pause, smirk and reply “lock ’em all up.”

“You brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up. They were inappropriately brought up, right from the beginning,” he told Stahl just before he abruptly ended the interview.

“Your first statement to me, ‘This is going to 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.’”

Stahl interjected, asking whether he did not think the president should be “accountable to the American people,” and Trump shot back that he doesn’t think Biden gets similarly tough questions from the media.

When someone off-camera begins to say that they are ready to bring in Pence, Trump cuts off the interview.

“Well, I think we have enough. Really, we have enough of an interview,” he says, then tells Stahl he’ll see her later and gets up.

Nick Niedzwiadek and Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

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