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In a wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office Friday, President Donald J. Trump said that the country is in the midst of “a political war … where the left will use anything to win, including the culture.”
The president said that to restore order and win in 2020, his Republican allies “need to be stronger” in standing up to rioters and those who would tear down statues. “They’ve got to get much tougher,” Trump said, drawing comparisons to moments when Republicans stood together on impeachment and in battles over judicial nominees. “They have to be stronger, have to come together,” or risk losing politically and worse.
While acknowledging the “horrible” scene that played out in Minnesota with the death of George Floyd, Trump argued that the Floyd-related protest movement has since morphed into an “anti-cop, defund the police, anti-American” movement that puts American communities at risk.
“Police never get the credit they deserve by politicians, who are being weak,” Trump said, positing that fear of criticizing the excesses of rioters and violent protesters is driven by political correctness and the danger of being called “racist.”
Trump referred to the Black Lives Matter political organization as having an “extremist” agenda and criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for wanting to close Fifth Avenue to paint the group’s titular slogan on the street.
“Republicans need to be fighting,” Trump said, citing the ideology of the more radical agitators in the streets as “vicious” and “seditious.” As the president recognizes, the goals of those sowing the seeds of unrest are clear. “You see their leaders on TV saying ‘give us what we want, or we’ll burn down this system and replace it.’ That’s almost terrorism.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is coordinating the response to the ongoing violent riots, which includes connecting with the anti-terror task force and the Department of Justice. According to Attorney General Bill Barr, there are over 500 current investigations in process.
“We have, right now, about 500 investigations underway, so it’s picking up pace. We are committed to holding accountable the people who engaged in this,” Barr told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and host Michael Knowles in a podcast released Thursday. “State and local are not doing their jobs.”
For his part, the president seemed frustrated that he was being called in to deal with problems within Democratic-represented states and Democratic-run cities.
“This should be about the mayor, and then the governor, before it even gets to the president,” Trump said, noting that while he has made the National Guard available to restore order in many cities, “they haven’t called for them.”
“But you look at a place like Seattle, and if I had to go in there, I will,” Trump said, referring to the autonomous zone that has taken over several blocks of the city for weeks.
Trump Expects To Be Banned By Twitter
In response to a question on whether he expects to soon be banned by Twitter — where he has over 82 million followers — Trump said: “Yes, I do.”
The president believes the ban from the popular platform will happen in the fall before the 2020 election, an opinion shared by others in the White House. For Trump and those close to him, Twitter’s reaction to two recent tweets — including one where he warned rioters against breaking the law — are being taken as warning shots.
“Some people say I should join Parler,” Trump said. “Maybe. We do have over 194 million followers, though, across multiple sites.” Trump complimented Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, saying he had been far more open and less biased in his treatment. But as for a Twitter ban: “I expect it will hurt them more than they realize.”
Regarding regulation of the big tech industry, the president raised the prospect of reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as being a potential approach to dealing with frustrations. He offered his complements and support to Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who has been pushing the issue.
“Section 230 is a double-edged sword,” Trump said, but “would be a much bigger problem for these companies than even just breaking them up … because you would have to be fighting lawsuits all the time. And believe me, I know a little about that.”
“But I want these companies to be successful, and to be based here in America because if you go too far, they end up looking at what is being offered by China instead,” Trump added. “And I don’t want that.”
Trump Decries “Corrupt” Media
Describing the media as “worse than fake news”, Trump expressed derision for prize-winning journalism which ultimately proved false.
“The Pulitzer Prize is a joke,” Trump said. “Giving the Pulitzer to the New York Times, the Washington Post for wrong coverage, false coverage? Years of it on Russia? They should all have to give them back.”
Trump expressed particular disdain for New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. “She likes to pretend as if she’s on the inside,” Trump said, “she has a picture with me like so many people do, but I haven’t talked to her in over a year, maybe even longer.”
Trump Views Court As Key to 2020 Success
Despite facing serious political headwinds as well as some cautionary recent polling data, Trump’s mood was confident and relaxed. Acknowledging the challenge of proving he can lead the country out of a global pandemic and an economic funk, he said that re-election looked easy “as recently as three, four months ago” before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“We proved what we could do, cutting taxes, cutting regulations, job numbers like nothing before,” Trump said. The key, he acknowledged, was to convince voters he can repeat that success.
Trump emphasized the importance of judicial appointments and the Supreme Court as central to his appeal in 2020. “It’s maybe not the majority we thought it was,” Trump said, raising the court’s decisions on DACA and the census among other examples. “We’re just one justice away from losing the court, and the next four years, you get two, maybe three, maybe even four. You just need one, and then we lose the court and the country as we know it.”
Referring to Joe Biden as “a Trojan Horse” for leftist policy, Trump said that he fully expects the left flank of the Democratic Party, represented by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to push Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer to deploy the “nuclear option,” banning the filibuster to jam radical, far-left policies through the Senate.
“Schumer will go ‘nuclear option’ on day one if we lose,” Trump said.
Despite the current political challenges, Trump’s enduring popularity among Republicans is still a source of strength for the president. Touting his success in primary endorsements, Trump mildly tweaked Meadows, who the president said had advised backing the eventual loser in the Congressman’s former seat, where newcomer 24-year-old Madison Cawthorn beat out Lynda Bennett.
“I told Mark I’ve gone 80-something and 1 with endorsements, and that’s the one,” Trump said with a smile.
Next Week, Mount Rushmore
Trump plans to head to Mount Rushmore in the coming week to deliver remarks and take in the first fireworks display held at the famed destination in a decade, on July 3rd.
A survey released this week by academic Eric Kaufmann, author of Whiteshift, found that 44 percent of liberal respondents and 58 percent of very liberal respondents agreed that Mount Rushmore should be eliminated.
“I do wonder sometimes if Democrats love our country,” Trump said in response to the figures. “That maybe 44 percent of liberals, but I assure you there’s a lot more the other way.”