On Monday, Donald Trump sat down for a face-to-face interview with Fox News anchor Bret Baier. Perched on a familiar stool in front of cameras that have spent so much time pointed his way that his face must be burned into their core, and fresh off his prime time CNN promo in front of a hand-selected audience told to cheer his every utterance, Trump must have anticipated some easy sledding.
Only Baier did the surprising thing: He asked actual questions, ones that didn’t just tee up Trump to repeat some part of his long-established rant. Questions like why Trump held onto the classified documents in the face of multiple requests from the National Archives and Department of Justice, and why he continues to refuse to admit he lost the 2020 election. But nothing may be funnier than when Baier asked Trump about why everyone he ever worked with, all those “best people” he hired in 2016, absolutely came to loathe him.
Baier’s list of people who were appointed by Trump to the most important positions in government, but who wouldn’t now support his run for street cleaner, is a reference that should be returned to again and again. A chief of staff. Another chief of staff. Defense secretary. Attorney general. Press secretary. Secretary of state. Secretary of transportation. UN ambassador. And Mike Pence.
If that’s not enough of Trump slamming Bill Barr, don’t worry. There’s plenty more.
In response to why he hired people who had “very small brains,” were “dumb as rocks,” or were “gutless pigs,” Trump’s response was that he hired “10 good people” for every one of these very bad people. And then Trump can’t name a single one. The best he can do is say that he had very good people in charge of the economy. That would be this economy.
Trump's “best” accomplishment was exactly like his best people: a disaster. He crashed the economy in a way that hasn’t been seen … since the last time a Republican was in the White House. That economy sprang back under Biden, but still hasn’t stabilized from the mismanagement of Trump’s nameless people.
During his interview with Baier, Trump mostly allowed the Fox anchor to finish his questions, something he did not allow CNN host Kaitlin Collins or any other woman who dared direct a query his way. However, there was one point at which Trump seemed determined to get out his gallop and trot right over Baier.
Trump’s insistence on throwing out one debunked conspiracy and one proven false narrative after another on this point is illuminating both because it’s clear he doesn’t want to give Baier time to confront any of these claims one at a time, and because it’s all just a litany of names and gibberish that’s unidentifiable to anyone not part of the MAGA horde. It’s all “the 51 agents” and “real recounts”—phrases that wouldn’t mean a thing to someone who had not been neck-deep in conspiracy land. Even Baier seems exhausted by the effort to get Trump to deal with the facts.
But the part of the interview already making the news outside Fox is the part where Trump confesses to withholding the documents. Again. And the part where he claims that the Bedminster document, the one he was caught talking about on tape and waving around to visitors, doesn’t exist.
Confronted about the documents, Trump gives what might be his best reason so far when it comes to withholding highly classified national defense documents: Trump didn’t hand over the boxes because he was concerned about running short of golf shirts. And he had apparently filed away some pants. As one does.
If you’re keeping track of Trump excuses, there are three Trump has repeated numerous times.
The documents were planted.
The documents were declassified by telepathy.
The Presidential Records Act lets me keep whatever I want.
To these, America can now add “I was too busy” and “because there were shoes.” And shirts. And pants. Boxes of pants. Trump also repeats the “everything was declassified” lie at the end of this ramble, along with another claim that the National Archives might be “stuffing” other documents in.
But even the pants aren’t the most ludicrous part of this statement. There’s also the part where Trump proclaims that the Bedminster document—the document that Trump was caught on tape declaring “like, highly confidential”—isn’t real. On the recording, Trump can be heard describing the document, explaining how it was prepared for him, and warning about its sensitivity. “As president, I could have declassified it,” said Trump. “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
But now Trump says the document doesn’t exist.
Trump: “There’s no document there. Those were newspaper articles. They were copies of articles and magazines. There was no document there.”
So Trump is saying he told people that a collection of newspaper articles and magazine clippings were “secret” and that he could have declassified them?
Despite having described the documents as having been prepared by General Mark Milley, Trump insists to Baier that he “has never seen a document from Milley,” and that “Miley was just incompetent.” Making him a perfect fit with every other person Trump appointed.
To top off the theme of the evening, after Trump insists there was nothing but a collection of newspaper clips and magazines, not a classified document, Baier makes one more stab.
Baier: “According to the people in the room who testified ...”
Trump: “These people are very dishonest people. They’re thugs.”
Of course they are. The television show “Everyone Hates Chris” was canceled back in 2009, but it seems like there’s plenty of material for several seasons of “Donald Trump Hates Everyone.”
By any measure, Trump’s interview was a laughable disaster. However, don’t get the idea this means Fox is shutting the door on Trump. Those who tuned in live may have seen Trump get confronted over several issues. Those who are following Fox’s coverage today are getting none of that, because this is what Fox News’ front page coverage of their Trump interview looks like on Tuesday morning.
Even when Trump lies to Fox News face to face, it’s not as if they’re going to report it. Instead, they’re digging deep to find a way to put a positive spin on the results. For those who are interested, the inspirational words that kept Putin from invading Ukraine, according to Trump, were “don’t do it.”
It’s not much of a story. But then, Fox isn’t much of a news organization. Notice that while they included clips of Trump making statements of his relationship with Xi and giving his rants about the dangers of the left, they failed to include any clips when editing his “boxes of pants” defense into something more reasonable.
Trump may hate everyone. Fox News may know he’s awful. But they both know they are dependent on the same awful audience for their financial survival.
Donald Trump is facing even more legal jeopardy and the sharks in the Republican Party seem to sense there is some blood in the water. Chris Christie has made his campaign all about going directly at Trump, and Ron DeSantis seems to be closer and closer to becoming completely isolated from the field.