President Donald Trump sat down for a wide-ranging interview Wednesday with The Daily Caller to cover the immediate policy future of his tenure since the end of the midterms. Major topics included the professional fates of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and CNN reporter Jim Acosta, the Florida recounts, Amazon and the violent Antifa group.
Recent reports have indicated that Trump has mulled replacing Nielsen, though he began the topic by extolling her potential. The president noted that it is common for staff turnover to occur after midterm elections saying “always in an administration after the midterms you make changes, so, I’m looking at things and I’ve got a lot of options.”
“I will be making a decision on Homeland shortly,” Trump said of Nielsen.
Sources familiar with the process told TheDC Tuesday they expect Nielsen to depart the administration in the coming weeks and that replacements were already being actively considered.
A DHS spokesman responded to TheDC’s interview in a statement saying, “the Secretary is honored to lead the men and women of DHS and is committed to implementing the President’s security-focused agenda to protect Americans from all threats and will continue to do so.”
The president also spoke extensively about CNN’s lawsuit against his administration for revoking Acosta’s press credentials. Trump attacked Acosta’s style of pugilistic journalism, saying he was “just an average guy who’s a grandstander. And he’s got the guts to stand up and, you know, and shout.”
CNN filed suit against the White House Tuesday morning in D.C. District Court. The suit claims the revocation of Acosta’s press pass violates CNN’s First and Fifth Amendment rights (press passes of several other CNN White House reporters have meanwhile remained active and unrevoked). CNN’s lawsuit alleges that “Acosta’s ability to perform his duties as CNN’s Chief White House correspondent is effectively eliminated.”
Trump was not boastful about the prospects of winning the suit.
“I don’t know, I think that we should. Certainly, you shouldn’t be able to go up into a White House and, on principle, it’s very disrespectful to the rest of the press,” he said.
The president repeatedly emphasized that Acosta’s antics often come at the sacrifice of the more buttoned-up members of the press corps.
“He’s actually more disrespectful, I think, to the rest of the media. Because he gets up and grandstands and says he wants to ask three or four questions and everyone else is, you know, you’re trying to get one question in and the room was packed with a couple of hundred people that want to ask questions.”
Trump ended his riff on Acosta by saying CNN’s most visible correspondent is simply “really bad for the country. Because they show how fake it all is.”
The Lame Duck Congress:
Despite little time left for a Republican majority in the House, Trump would not commit to any specific legislative items for the lame duck session.
“We’re working on many things. Criminal justice reform we’re working on very hard,” he said.
Criminal justice reform and a bill to fund the government past a current December 2018 deadline are currently the major items on the agenda for the lame duck session of this Congress. Lawmakers will begin in earnest with these efforts after Thanksgiving.
The president left open the possibility for a government shut down in the near future, saying he “may” pursue the option depending on the progress of funding for his proposed border wall.
“I may very well be willing to shut down the government,” he said.
The president delivered an extended line of criticism on Broward County election supervisor Brenda Snipes.
“She’s a disaster. You look at her past, she’s a disaster,” Trump said of Snipes, adding, “she should have been removed — I think she should have been removed in the middle of this mix-up.”
Snipes has come under fire in the media and among elected Republicans for multiple irregularities in her vote reporting. After the Florida Senate race was called for Republican Gov. Rick Scott on election night, election supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties were still adding votes to their tally, in violation of Florida reporting law. In the subsequent days, Snipes defied a judge’s order to submit “over-voted” and “under-voted” absentee ballots for public review and admitted to “accidentally” mixing illegal ballots in with good ones. The illegal ballots “cannot be identified” now, according to Snipes.
Trump also expressed concern about illegal votes being counted or cast in the ongoing Florida recount.
“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes, which is what I’ve been saying for a long time,” adding, “I’ve had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again.”
The president offered respect and understanding for Amazon’s decision — amid vocal criticism from both the political right and the left — to place two of its new facilities in Crystal City, Virginia, and New York City.
“I think that it was a competition. I know all about those competitions, I’ve been in those competitions, you know, and it’s a lot of people, a lot of cities who are competing for it. They took the best deals,” he said.
Amazon announced Tuesday it would locate two major facilities in Crystal City and New York City, with 25,000 employees assigned to each. Amazon received billions of dollars in subsidies from both cities to build their new facilities.
Trump repeated his long-held belief that Amazon is cheating the U.S. Postal Service.
“I think they’re getting the bargain of the century,” he said, reiterating, “I think Amazon has the bargain of the century with the U.S. Post Office, which is losing a fortune.”
Antifa/Tucker Carlson Incident:
Trump also spoke briefly about the Antifa attack and harassment of Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson.
“I think Tucker’s a great guy and I think it’s terrible,” Trump said. The mob of left-wing agitators recently gathered at Carlson’s house while his wife was home alone and banged on the door. The crowd chanted “Tucker Carlson, we will fight. We know where you sleep at night!” and “You are not safe.”
Asked how law enforcement should respond in such cases, Trump talked of Antifa’s “opposition.”
“These people, like the Antifa you’re talking about, the Antifa — they better hope that the opposition to Antifa decides not to mobilize. Because if they do, they’re much tougher.”
“Because if you look, the other side is the military, it’s the police, it’s a lot of very strong, a lot of very tough people. Tougher than them. And smarter than them. And they’re sitting back and watching and they’re getting angrier and angrier.”
“And Antifa’s going to be in big trouble. But so far they haven’t done that, and that’s a good thing.”
Takeaways from 2018 Election:
The Daily Caller’s final question to Trump centered on his takeaways from the 2018 midterm election.
“I think I did very well,” he said, expounding on his success endorsing candidates who eked out narrow victories.
“Obama was 60-something odd House seats and lost seven Senate seats. So we picked up three or four Senate seats depending on how it all goes — it’s a big pickup. In fact, they say in 80 years I think the presidential party’s only picked up two Senate seats, I picked up three.”
The election was a mixed bag for Republicans, who took more control of the Senate but lost several seats in the House of Representatives.
“I mean, the truth is, every place I went, we either won or did well or did really well,” he said.
“You take a look at the races I was involved in, I had a massive impact.”