President Donald Trump sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, in which Trump touched on a broad variety of hot-button topics facing the nation today. Here are the highlights.
On FBI Director James Comey, Bartiromo pressed Trump on whether he should have asked him to step down at the outset of his presidency. In response, the president noted that Comey “saved Hillary Clinton” but also expressed confidence in his ability to carry out his duties.
Of the Susan Rice scandal, which saw the former National Security adviser get implicated in unmasking names of Trump associates, Trump pointed to his prescient tweet that accused the Obama administration of surveilling him.
“Perhaps I didn’t know how right I was, because nobody knew the extent of it,” Trump said. He also blasted The New York Times for revising a headline that once claimed that the Obama administration had “wiretapped” Trump during his transition to the Oval Office.
On healthcare and tax reform, Trump insisted that the former was necessary to hammer out so that the latter can be done “right.”
“It’s been very much misreported that we failed in health care. We haven’t failed, we’re negotiating, and we continue to negotiate, and we will save perhaps $900 billion,” he said, later adding: “And after that, we’re going to start on tax reform and infrastructure.”
Later in the interview, Trump blamed partisan squabbling between Republicans and Democrats – as well as “factions” within the GOP itself — for hampering his healthcare agenda, pointing at the explosive Senate battle on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation as an emblematic example of how modern politics is fraught with divison.
On a possible border tax, Trump took issue with the term “border adjustment,” claiming that “adjustment means we lose” and noting that such a tax would mainly serve to square up the United States with countries that impose heavy tariffs on American-made goods.
“When you say, ‘I’m going to charge a 10 percent or a 20 percent border tax,’ everyone goes crazy, because they like free trade,” he said. “But when you say a reciprocal tax… they can’t get angry because they can’t win that battle.”
On Syria, Trump was unequivocal: “Just so you understand, we’re not going into Syria… [What] I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it and you would have had a much better – I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.”
As for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Trump did not mince words in denouncing the dangerous alliance: “Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person. And I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind. It’s very bad for this world.”
On North Korea, which has ramped up its aggressive posturing in the region with a series of ballistic missile tests in recent weeks, Trump hesitated to offer details of his administration’s approach to solving the problem but noted that he has taken multiple actions to do so.
“We’re sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you,” he said. Later, he noted that his successful meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping saw Trump strike a deal that would compel China to aid with North Korea in order to secure a lucrative trade deal.
“I think China can help us. I hope China can help us. We talked about trade and I can tell you, China will do much better on trade if they help us with North Korea,” Trump said.
The president concluded the interview by noting that he informed Xi of the Tomahawk missile strike in Syria over dessert. Xi agreed with the response, Trump recalled: “And he said to me, anybody that uses gases – you could almost say or anything else – but anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that to young children and babies, it’s OK.”
Watch the full interview below: