EXCLUSIVE: Top 5 takeaways of President Trump's interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos
The interview touched on Mueller, UFOs, Air Force One, Biden and more.
ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos embedded with President Donald Trump for a wide-ranging exclusive interview over the course of two days this week, generating a bevy of newsy headlines over the course of their unprecedented discussion.
Here are the top five moments from the interview.
Trump says he’d listen to foreign intelligence on political opponents
This was the biggest headline of them all. After Trump told Stephanopoulos that he may not alert the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his 2020 rivals during the upcoming presidential race, the president faced a wave of criticism from Republicans and Democrats.
Despite the deluge of investigations stemming from his campaign's interactions with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Stephanopoulos asked Trump Wednesday in the Oval Office whether his reelection campaign would accept such information from foreigners – such as China or Russia – or hand it over the FBI, Trump answered, "I think maybe you do both."
"I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump continued. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent' – oh, I think I'd want to hear it."
Trump disputed the idea that if a foreign government provided information on a political opponent, it would be considered interference in our election process.
"It's not an interference, they have information – I think I'd take it," Trump said. "If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, 'oh let's call the FBI.' The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned on Thursday that Trump is giving Russia “the green light” to again interfere in a U.S. presidential election.
“Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night,” Pelosi said.
While Pelosi called Trump’s comments "cavalier" and an “assault on democracy” she indicated it’s not enough to sway her to prematurely launch an impeachment inquiry.
“What we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that, but not any one issue is going to trigger, ‘Oh, now we’ll go do [impeachment].’ Because it’s about investigating, it’s about litigating, it’s about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable and no one is above the law,” she said.
Even one of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill did not come to his defense. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the president’s response was “not the right answer.”
“If a foreign government comes to you as a public official, and offers to help your campaign giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no,” he said.
By Friday, the president worked to walk his comments back, telling Fox News that he would notify the FBI or the attorney general if the information was “incorrect or badly stated.”
“Of course you have to look at it because if you don't look at it you won't know it's bad,” Trump said on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning. "But, of course, you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that."
Trump says internal polling shows he’s ‘winning everywhere’
Trump told Stephanopoulos that his campaign’s internal polling showed that he is “winning everywhere."
When Stephanopoulos mentioned reports of polls commissioned by the Trump campaign that showed former Vice President Joe Biden ahead in several key states, the president said: “those polls don't exist.”
"Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don't exist, George. Those polls don't exist. I'm losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don't exist," Trump said.
"I just was given a meeting with my pollster who I frankly don't even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is, it is, but I just had a meeting with somebody that's a pollster and I'm winning everywhere, so I don't know what you're talking about."
But data from the first internal poll conducted by the campaign in March, obtained exclusively Friday by ABC News, showed Trump losing a matchup by wide margins to Biden in key battleground states, including double-digit leads for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41, and Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a traditionally Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.
When presented by ABC News with these numbers Friday, the Trump campaign confirmed the data saying in a statement that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.
Trump says it ‘doesn’t matter’ what former White House Counsel Don McGahn told Mueller
Stephanopoulos quizzed Trump about the Russia investigation at length. The president directly disputed the account of a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice during the course of the Russia probe saying that it "doesn't matter" what his former White House counsel Don McGahn testified.
Trump said McGahn "may have been confused" when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.
"The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller," Trump told Stephanopoulos.
At the president’s instruction, McGahn is currently fighting a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about those conversations with Trump, among other things. McGahn spent nearly 30 hours with the special counsel’s investigators testifying under oath and was one of most quoted aides to the president to appear in the report.
When Stephanopoulos pushed back and referenced McGahn's testimony, Trump was defiant.
"I don't care what [McGahn] says, it doesn't matter," Trump said.
"Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?" Stephanopoulos later asked.
"Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer," Trump said. "Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen – including you, including the media – that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest."
"And has to go?" Stephanopoulos followed up.
"I didn't say that," Trump insisted.
Trump reveals historic redesign of Air Force One
Less than a year after announcing a $3.9 billion makeover for America's most famous aircraft, Trump shared never-before-seen renderings of Air Force One's prospective redesign.
"George, take a look at this," Trump boasted to Stephanopoulos, flashing mock-ups of his vision for the next generation of the presidential aircraft. "Here's your new Air Force One."
Trump showed his plan to swap the iconic sky blue-and-white paint job for a patriotic red, white and blue.
"We had different choices, here," Trump said, pointing to images he said he designed himself. "These are all slightly different."
The new fleet won't be ready for takeoff until 2024. In spite of the president’s willingness to share the preliminary sketches, Trump is still holding some details close to the vest.
"There are a couple of secrets," Trump teased. "You know what, there are a couple of secrets I don't think we're supposed to be talking about."
Trump says of Fed Reserve chairman: ‘I’ve waited long enough’
Trump slammed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, insisting that Powell’s actions have prevented the economy from soaring even higher and declaring he’s out of patience with the person he picked to lead the nation’s central bank.
Inviting Stephanopoulos along for a trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa on Tuesday, Trump said that the financial market would be stronger "if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve who wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much.”
Trump told Stephanopoulos he believes the Dow Jones Industrial Average could be 10,000 points higher if the Federal Reserve hadn’t hiked rates last year. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Powell wouldn’t be in the job if it weren’t for Trump.
“He’s my pick,” Trump acknowledged. “And I disagree with him entirely.”
Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether he has concerns that his repeated commentary on the Federal Reserve puts Powell “in a box.”
“Yes, I do,” Trump responded. “But I’m gonna do it anyway because I’ve waited long enough.”