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Trump Repeats Unproven Claims and Attacks Critics in His First Extended Interview as President

5 minute read

Donald Trump began his first extended sit-down interview as President by saying the job had changed him already. But he spent the rest of the interview displaying all the same traits he displayed as a presidential candidate. He doubled and even tripled down on controversial statements, attacked his critics, made claims based on things unnamed sources had told him, argued the election was rigged, and went after the news media.

In the interview with ABC’s David Muir, Trump acknowledged that his words have greater meaning now that he’s been sworn-in as President, but he unapologetically hewed to many of his campaign talking points and assertions — at times without foundation.

Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

On people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, Trump hinted at a forthcoming policy announcement to provide them a path to legal status.

They shouldn’t be very worried. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border. We’re gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job they should be far less worried. We’ll be coming out with policy on that over the next three to four weeks.

Trump continued to dispute reports that the crowd size for his Inauguration didn’t match President Barack Obama’s, saying he was elected to ensure his supporters are not forgotten.

When I looked at the numbers that happened to come in from all of the various sources, we had the biggest audience from history of inaugural speeches. I said the men and women that I was talking to who came out and voted will never be forgotten again. Therefore I won’t allow you or other people like you to demean that crowd and to demean the people that came to Washington, D.C., from faraway places because they like me. But more importantly, they like what I’m saying.

On getting the nuclear “biscuit” — a plastic card containing his authentication codes to launch a nuclear strike — shortly after his swearing-in, Trump remarked

It is a very sobering moment. Very sobering. Very scary in a sense.

He meanwhile reaffirmed that he believes in an unsubstantiated theory that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally, and blamed members of Congress for leaking it to the press.

It was supposed to be a confidential meeting. They turned it into not a con … Number two, the conversation lasted for about a minute. They made it — somebody said it was, like, 25% of the … It wasn’t. It was hardly even discussed.

He claimed that of those alleged millions of illegal votes, for which there is no evidence, not one went to him.

They didn’t come to me. Believe me. Those were Hillary votes. And if you look at it they all voted for Hillary. They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one. O.K., these are people that voted for Hillary Clinton. And if they didn’t vote, it would’ve been different in the popular.

Calling out a surge of murder and other crime in Chicago, he defended his Tweet suggesting he’d send in federal forces.

I want them to fix the problem. You can’t have thousands of people being shot in a city, in a country that I happen to be President of. Maybe it’s O.K. if somebody else was President. I want them to fix the problem. O.K., the problem is very easily fixable.

Trump reaffirmed his personal opinion that waterboarding and other forms of torture are effective, but said he would listen to his Secretary of Defense and not push for their return — for now.

As far as I’m concerned we have to fight fire with fire. Now that being said, I’m going with General Mattis. I’m going with my secretary because I think Pompeo’s gonna be phenomenal. I’m gonna go with what they say. But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest [level] of intelligence. And I asked them the question, “Does it work? Does torture work?” And the answer was, “Yes, absolutely.”

On the impact of his considered proposals to limit immigration from some Muslim-majority countries and to suspend the U.S. refugee program, Trump argued it couldn’t exacerbate tensions in the Muslim community, because they’re already so high.

There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more? … The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.

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